Definition of frankincense in English:



mass noun
  • An aromatic gum resin obtained from an African tree and burnt as incense.

    This resin is obtained from the tree Boswellia sacra, family Burseraceae, native to Somalia

    Also called olibanum, gum olibanum
    • ‘If we read further in Matthew, we find the familiar story of the wise men, following the star and carrying gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’
    • ‘They valued its trees which produced the aromatic gum resins frankincense and myrrh.’
    • ‘The burning of scents like frankincense and myrrh dates back to the ancient Egyptians, and continued through the centuries, gradually including sweet spices like cinnamon, quassia, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.’
    • ‘Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans' independent kingdom, and as Greek and Roman demand for such exotic goods as cassia, cinnamon, frankincense, and myrrh increased, so did the prosperity of the Nabataeans.’
    • ‘In one culture a shaman uses tobacco, sage or cannabis, in others copal, frankincense, sandalwood, cedar, juniper or pine.’
    • ‘By their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they acknowledged Jesus as royal, divine, and destined to suffer and die.’
    • ‘Treasured by kings, wise men and people of discriminating taste for millennia, the aroma of frankincense and myrrh evokes feelings of warmth, comfort, majesty, reverence and peace.’
    • ‘I do pilates for my back, and if I have a chance I love nothing better than a hot bath with frankincense and myrrh.’
    • ‘The city was famed for the production of frankincense which in those days was a treasure that commanded a huge price on the open markets of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Damascus.’
    • ‘It is a blend of calming sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh, which give it a mystical, resinous quality, and exotic jasmine and rose for romantic sensuality.’
    • ‘You can haggle over gold, frankincense and myrrh; this is a place to stroll at will, for directions as well as monuments to take one's fancy.’
    • ‘There'd also be a ready supply of essential oils - especially myrrh and frankincense - to soothe sore joints after a hard day's prayer and candles to burn.’
    • ‘Jewish ceremonial incense includes frankincense and myrrh, and is frequently mentioned in the Pentateuch, the Jewish Old Testament.’
    • ‘You mix frankincense with things like spices, seeds and roots to create different aromas.’
    • ‘Her incenses are acacia, frankincense, myrrh, catnip, cedar, cinnamon, and juniper.’
    • ‘I think it was rosemary and frankincense in it perhaps, that the swinging censor of incense, and I just found it all so beautiful and evocative, that ritual going on.’
    • ‘What a comedown for the land known in ancient times as Arabia Felix, or Happy Arabia, whose rulers included the Queen of Sheba and whose caravan routes supplied frankincense and myrrh to the Holy Roman Empire.’
    • ‘South Arabia (the Roman Arabia Felix) had a civilized society based on the wealth of its spice and incense trade - this is where the gold, frankincense and myrrh of the Bible came from.’
    • ‘Its riches were the result of both its location on the most important trade routes of the time - over land and sea - and its profitable trade in frankincense and myrrh.’
    • ‘The long-term survival of the international frankincense trade of Oman resins is unknown at this point in time.’


Late Middle English: from Old French franc encens, literally ‘high-quality incense’, from franc (see frank) in an obsolete sense ‘superior, of high quality’ (which also existed in English) + encens ‘incense’.