One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1mass noun A fragrant medicinal resin obtained from certain trees.
- ‘We've got Vietnamese coriander, for example, and balm of Gilead, which is not normally used in cooking but has a fantastic smell.’
- ‘This balm of Gilead has a wonderful fragrance.’
- ‘He holds it out in his hand to me as if he is offering the balm of Gilead or all the riches of Babylon or something precious and extravagant like that.’
2A tree that yields balm of Gilead.
an Arabian tree traditionally of importance in medicine and perfumery (Commiphora gileadensis, family Burseraceae).
either of two poplars with sticky aromatic buds (Populus × gileadensis or 'candicans') and the balsam poplar, family Salicaceae).
the balsam fir.
- ‘The balm-of-Gilead tree, which has mostly escaped from cultivation, is found along roadsides or streams from Newfoundland to Minnesota and Georgia.’
- ‘Meadowsweet is really easy to pick, and the balm of gilead buds are horribly messy.’
- ‘The Balm-of-Gilead has heart-shaped leaves with rounded, slightly hairy leaf stalks.’
- ‘The air is full of birds, and sweet with the breath of the pine, the balm of Gilead, and the new hay.’
Early 16th century: balm from a translation in Coverdale's Bible (Gen. 37:25), rendered ‘resin’ in the Vulgate; Gilead from the assumption that this resin is the substance mentioned in the Bible as coming from Gilead.
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