Definition of acanthus in English:



  • 1A herbaceous plant or shrub with bold flower spikes and spiny decorative leaves, found in warm regions of the Old World.

    • ‘We took an acanthus flower from a popular Georgian wallpaper design and blew it up so large that a single flower filled an entire wall.’
    • ‘Beyond the pane, a duller gleaming, drooping green acanthus leaves, symbol once, in Christian art, of heaven, before that, classic curlicue of Greek and Roman art and architecture.’
    • ‘Many featured floral and botanical patterns, often the lily or the acanthus leaf.’
    • ‘Many wildflowers in the habitat belong to the acanthus family, including branched foldwing, Carolina scalystem, Carolina wild petunia, loose-flower water willow, and swamp twinflower.’
    • ‘Along with the box - real and otherwise - are large terracotta pots of Chusan palms and acanthus, which can be moved around according to whim.’
    • ‘Planted beneath it, and in the matching raised bed across the runnel, is a collection of bold and textural plants such as abutilon, acanthus, agapanthus, and Tasmanian tree fern.’
    • ‘Then our patch: some of it is paved, there is a frog pond, a fig tree, acanthus, bamboo and cranesbill.’
    • ‘Abutilon, acanthus, and nandina provide a back-drop, and double impatiens and coleus add seasonal color.’
    • ‘One thinks of the acanthus, or bamboo, or (in Tibet), the tiger skin.’
    • ‘Given the backdrop of ferns, hostas and the wooden acanthus leaves, this is an excellent way to bring back into the garden what would otherwise be a slightly shady thoroughfare.’
    • ‘Like those of the eighteenth century, these ‘flowers and leaves’ were variations on irises, carnations, roses, and acanthus.’
    • ‘The leaves of the acanthus are so famously handsome and glossy that their blue flower spike is almost an afterthought.’
    • ‘Spray artichokes, cynara carduncularus, achillea, lavender, hydrangea, acanthus and eryngiums with snow, glitter or metallic paints available from DIY shops.’
    • ‘Some plant species can regenerate from seemingly unpromisingly small fragments (as I know from moving an acanthus in my garden).’
    1. 1.1Architecture A conventionalized representation of an acanthus leaf, used especially as a decoration for Corinthian column capitals.
      • ‘One's eye is immediately drawn to the relief decoration of alternating acanthus and palm leaves that encircles the body just above the base.’
      • ‘A graceful swan-neck broken pediment crown, spiraling acanthus, tobacco leaves, all of these help to express the character of the Aristocrat collection.’
      • ‘Its rich deep border was a riot of scrolling acanthus, shells and stylised fountains.’
      • ‘The base is made of rippled walnut and amboyna, inset with marquetry of acanthus in satinwood (sand-burnt for three-dimensional effect), which was done by a Welsh firm, Anita Marquetry.’
      • ‘Glazed white acanthus leaves and palmettes decorate the base of the body of the vase.’
      • ‘The wooden body is derived from models by Piranesi, including the cabriole legs ending in rams' heads on acanthus leaves and cloven-hoof feet.’
      • ‘But while coffers of this type are generally supported on stands with straight tapering legs, the Blenheim stands have handsome cabriole legs at both front and back, mounted at the top with acanthus volutes topped by female heads.’
      • ‘While the Greeks had used the Corinthian capital with an Ionic entablature, the Romans invented a distinct cornice for the Corinthian order, characterized by large projecting modillions embellished with acanthus leaves.’
      • ‘Jackson-Stops noted various French elements, including ‘the domed feet formed of acanthus leaves with a toe-like scroll in front, and the vertical, rather than raked, back legs of the armchairs’.’
      • ‘At 23 centimetres high and weighing 3,500 grams the candlesticks are highly ornamental, their tripod bases standing on scallop shell supports, centred by vacant medallions within acanthus leaf foliage on a matted ground.’
      • ‘The star lot is a striking mid-18th century Irish mahogany side table. The later rectangular marble top sits above a plain gadrooned frieze, the deep shaped apron centred by a grotesque mask flanked by scrolling acanthus.’
      • ‘The posts are beautifully carved with acanthus leaves and feathers, and the bed is elaborately draped with the original hangings of ribbed dimity trimmed with tassels and caught up above the frame on brass mounts.’
      • ‘The architrave includes a Greek key design and other symbols, and the side archivolts are decorated with acanthus leaves.’
      • ‘In Fat of the Lamb, white fat winds around viscous sinew and muscle as if in emulation of the frame's sinuous acanthus motif.’
      • ‘This rope feature and the lion paw feet, legs, and exaggerated acanthus leaves are very similar to the one at Glin.’
      • ‘Made entirely of gold, the legs were capitals shaped like lilies and entwined about the golden table were a filigree of vines entwined with acanthus, the sacred metal worked so expertly, he was sure that they were living plants of gold.’
      • ‘Certainly the artist of the Agnus Dei might have found a different precedent for this acanthus ornament, but it is relatively unusual.’
      • ‘A particularly well carved card table with a central lion's mask and fluent acanthus decoration fetched 281,690 [pounds sterling] at Bonhams on 23 November 2004.’
      • ‘The architectural ornament is of that easy and delectable kind which mimics nature: the acanthus leaves of Corinthian capitals, garlands and trophies in the manner of Wren and Grinling Gibbons.’
      • ‘Although this is a typical Islamic motif, it traces its origins to the vine and acanthus scroll ornament of the late antique classical world, and the pattern itself refers back on the other hand to early Syrian textiles.’


Mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek akanthos, from akantha ‘thorn’, from akē ‘sharp point’.