Definition of banyan in English:


(also banian)


  • 1An Indian fig tree, the branches of which produce wide-ranging aerial roots which later become accessory trunks.

    Ficus benghalensis, family Moraceae

    • ‘A porter stops to rest under the shade of a huge banyan tree, its trunk twisting out of the earth and its umbrella-like branches arching over a granite stairway.’
    • ‘The day includes the ceremonial watering of banyan trees to commemorate the banyan tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment.’
    • ‘The branches of the banyan tree had apparently entered deep into a building on Patullos Road and posed a threat to the stability of the building.’
    • ‘The monument is a massive flagpole entwined with the trunk and branches of a symbolic banyan tree forged in steel.’
    • ‘Then it scampered off up the aerial roots of a nearby banyan tree.’
  • 2A loose flannel undergarment worn in India.

    • ‘In their saris, salwar kameez, kurtas, t-shirts, trousers, lunghis and banians, people from Assam to Kerala, from Gujarat to Jharkhand, were gathering in Mumbai for the World Social Forum.’
    • ‘In contrast to more reserved garments like the banyan, the kilt became a symbol of a rough-hewn paradise.’
    • ‘Also of interest is a rare crimson damask banyan - an early precursor of the dressing gown - of early 18 th-century silk, worn by Thomas Severne, Gentleman of the Bed Chamber to King William III.’
    • ‘Nearly 75 per cent of our production goes to powerloom units and the balance to hosiery, banian and handloom sectors.’


Late 16th century: from Portuguese, from Gujarati vāṇiyo ‘man of the trading caste’, from Sanskrit. Originally denoting a Hindu merchant, the term was applied, by Europeans in the mid 17th century, to a tree under which such traders had built a pagoda.