One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1mass noun A fragrant medicinal resin obtained from certain trees.
- ‘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.’
- ‘We've got Vietnamese coriander, for example, and balm of Gilead, which is not normally used in cooking but has a fantastic smell.’
2A tree that yields balm of Gilead.
the balsam fir.
either of two poplars with sticky aromatic buds (Populus × gileadensis or 'candicans') and the balsam poplar, family Salicaceae).
an Arabian tree traditionally of importance in medicine and perfumery (Commiphora gileadensis, family Burseraceae).
- ‘Meadowsweet is really easy to pick, and the balm of gilead buds are horribly messy.’
- ‘The balm-of-Gilead tree, which has mostly escaped from cultivation, is found along roadsides or streams from Newfoundland to Minnesota and Georgia.’
- ‘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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