Definition of heath in English:



  • 1British An area of open uncultivated land, typically on acid sandy soil, with characteristic vegetation of heather, gorse, and coarse grasses.

    ‘horses were being exercised on the heath’
    mass noun ‘the marshland gave way to heath and sandy scrub’
    • ‘This could have been due to the onset of warmer and wetter weather, as until then the landscape had been characterised by woodland and heath, but raising water levels killed the trees and the mire began to form.’
    • ‘Access rights will not take effect until 2005, when definitive maps of the mountains, moorland, heath and common land covered by the legislation will be complete.’
    • ‘It forms long leafy strands, with tiny, pale brown spore cases at the tips, and grows on wet heaths, peaty soil, and other places that are under water for much of the winter, preferably with some disturbance from grazing or vehicles.’
    • ‘By then, it had become obvious that it was pointless converting poor sandy soils or reclaiming heath for arable, and pine forests were planted instead.’
    • ‘In arable areas such as Yorkshire, hunts were more reliant on other areas of permanent grassland such as the parkland surrounding country houses, or common lands and heaths beyond the farms.’
    • ‘Apart from the sandy heaths of the Landes, to the south of the Gironde, it was a fertile region whose warm, damp climate favoured great agricultural diversity.’
    • ‘The golden plover breeds in short vegetation on upland heaths and peat bogs and adults also travel each day to feed on nearby pastures.’
    • ‘The main threat to the species comes from loss of habitat - a reduction in the area of lowland heath or changes in forestry practice.’
    • ‘A southward depression of the treeline in favour of wet heaths, bogs and wetland tundra communities is also observed in northern oceanic environments.’
    • ‘There's more moorland and open heath here than woodland, more gorse and heather than noble oak.’
    • ‘Ever more marginal land including wetlands, heaths, and steep hillsides had to be brought into cultivation as the century progressed, much of it inherently unsuited to arable production.’
    • ‘Much of the countryside is accessible too, with hundreds of long-distance paths and shorter, waymarked routes to help you discover woodlands, heaths, hills and moors.’
    • ‘The open moors and heaths were another source for other varieties of plants, especially berries, as well as providing areas for sheep and goat grazing.’
    • ‘She was told there was a designated flying area on the heath and by-laws could not be changed.’
    • ‘This species inhabits both the open heaths and the woodland borders and often takes advantage of patches of heath that have recently been burnt.’
    • ‘Until the end of the 18th century, Great Bustards were widely distributed in England on open chalk downland, grassy heaths and agricultural land.’
    • ‘A three-month public consultation will now start on areas of mountain, moorland, heath and downland previously off-limits, but now designated open for access through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.’
    • ‘Previously unexplored corners of the countryside will be unlocked, allowing people to walk freely over mapped areas of mountain, moor, heath and registered common land as of May 28.’
    • ‘While out riding in 1711, she came upon an area of open heath, not far from Windsor Castle, that looked an ideal place for ‘horses to gallop at full stretch.’’
    • ‘The draft map published in December shows what the Agency regards as ‘open country’ - mountain, moor, heath and down land or registered common land to which the new access rights will apply.’
    moor, heathland, moorland, scrub, scrubs, common land, open country, upland
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Ecology mass noun Vegetation dominated by dwarf shrubs of the heather family.
      as modifier ‘heath vegetation’
      • ‘Peaty soils dominated hollows and lower slopes with tallish heather, and subalpine soils dominated the freely drained ground with short heath.’
      • ‘Coastal heath vegetation is particularly colourful this wildflower season.’
      • ‘After an hour this high ground offers a panoramic view of an unspoilt, uncharted, expanse of wild heath covered moorland stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see.’
  • 2A dwarf shrub with small leathery leaves and small pink or purple bell-shaped flowers, characteristic of heaths and moorland.

    "Erica" and related genera, family "Ericaceae": many species

    • ‘The white, purple and red flowers of heath bloom in early to late winter in the north except in bitter cold.’
    • ‘She worked on terraces around the main house and created an indigenous garden above the house, with aloes and proteas, Cape heaths and indigenous trees.’
    • ‘Sometimes I add extra leaf mould for heath or moisture-loving plants, or seaside sand for coastal plants in a trough.’
    • ‘After the logging and fires, resilient plants like fire cherry, bracken fern, and the heaths had reclaimed much of this broken landscape.’
    • ‘The coloured sandstone - golden, purple and orange - shows itself among the native heath and shrubs.’
    • ‘Most, but not all heathers and heaths prefer an acid soil.’
    • ‘No domestic sheep were run on the areas since at least 1900, and grazing by red deer was light, mainly on grass rather than on the heaths eaten by Rock Ptarmigan and Red Grouse.’
    • ‘Even during winter some of the heaths provide a welcome splash of colour.’
    • ‘The garden designer Gertrude Jekyll was a great fan and favoured naturalistic planting companions such as heaths Erica and rock roses Cistus.’
    • ‘The winter heath is blooming heavily and the summer heather is standing erect with foliage in gorgeous hues of bronze, coral and red.’
    • ‘But if you prefer your color non-prickly, then take a look at some of the winter flowering heaths.’
    • ‘In a couple of years my winter blooming heaths will be big enough that I will be able to use those in the wreaths as well.’
    • ‘Have you ever investigated all the available varieties of heaths and heathers?’
    • ‘Hardiest and most readily available of the winter-blooming heaths are varieties of Erica carnea.’
    • ‘If snows aren't too deep, the best and most vibrant source of winter color comes from the family of heaths and heathers.’
    • ‘Heathers and heaths need full sun and good drainage is vital, so containers and window boxes should be made of terracotta, stone or wood, never non-porous plastic or glazed pottery.’
    • ‘Some of it will be attached to green plants - this is a good time, for instance, to trim back heaths that have been blooming through the winter.’
    • ‘Cherrybank is the most northerly of the three National Collections of heathers and heaths - the others are at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley in Surrey and Harlow Carr in Harrogate.’
  • 3A small light brown and orange European butterfly which typically has eyespots on the wings, the caterpillar feeding on grasses.

    Genus "Coenonympha", subfamily "Satyrinae", family "Nymphalidae": several species, including the common small heath ("C. pamphilus")

    • ‘They are home to species such as the large heath Butterfly the Fen Raft Spider and the Manchester Treble-bar moth.’
    • ‘On the ground, patches of yellow tormentil, blue-purple and red-magenta milkwort were growing at regular intervals, with small heath, small copper, green hairstreak and other butterfly species putting in the occasional appearance.’
    • ‘Foulshaw boasts a huge variety of plants and animals, including the cranberry, bog rosemary, heath butterfly and bog bush cricket.’
    • ‘A number of butterflies are also present, including marbled white, meadow brown, small heath and small skipper.’
  • 4A yellowish-brown chiefly day-flying European moth of heathland and grassland.

    Several species in the family "Geometridae"

    • ‘It is thought to be a less patterned variant of the Common Heath Moth, Ematurga atomaria.’
    • ‘We also recorded Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Heath Moth and a Stick Insect.’


Old English hǣth, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch heide and German Heide.