One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1English regional (northern) and Scottish. The bird cherry, Prunus padus; (also) the small round astringent fruit of this. Sometimes also (perhaps by confusion): any of several other trees with small rounded fruit, as the wild cherry, Prunus avium, and the wild service tree, Sorbus torminalis.
2Originally and chiefly North American= "hackberry". Now rare.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in John Gerard (c1545–1612), herbalist. Probably the reflex of a borrowing from early Scandinavian (compare Danish haegebaer (already in early modern Danish), Norwegian heggebaer, Old Swedish hägbär (Swedish häggbär)) from the Scandinavian base of Old Icelandic heggr bird-cherry tree + the Scandinavian base of Old Icelandic ber, with remodelling of the second element after berry; in form hagberry probably also with remodelling after hag.
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