Definition of leaf in English:



  • 1A flattened structure of a higher plant, typically green and blade-like, that is attached to a stem directly or via a stalk. Leaves are the main organs of photosynthesis and transpiration.

    ‘many of the trees had lost their leaves’
    ‘bay leaves’
    ‘an oak leaf’
    • ‘This also gives the best possible area exposed to falling rain so the rain is directed back along the leaf and down the stem to the roots.’
    • ‘First check the field for the presence or absence of spider mites on individual green leaves on a corn plant.’
    • ‘The female Thrypticus deposits an egg in a water-hyacinth petiole - the stalk that attaches the leaf to the stem.’
    • ‘Plants were dissected into leaves, stems with petioles, and inflorescences.’
    • ‘But coca is a very resilient plant, and fresh green leaves are already sprouting from stalks fumigated a few months ago.’
    • ‘It makes a decorative house or garden plant with long green leaves and a spectacular flower.’
    • ‘Only the tender green leaves growing off the stems are really palatable, so this type of cress requires a bit of prep work.’
    • ‘Plants were analysed by measuring the excised leaves of the main shoot.’
    • ‘The egg-sacs are deposited in twisted leaves or may be directly attached to a leaf.’
    • ‘I want to put white lights around their trunks and red lights along the main stem of the leaves.’
    • ‘There were plants with long green leaves in every corner and the curtains were of gold silk.’
    • ‘Then the other way is called transpiration, or water lost primarily from the leaves and stems of the plants.’
    • ‘Individual plant shoots from each category were separated into stem, leaves, and crown.’
    • ‘About two hours later, the yard had almost become a pond, with the green leaves of the plants shining in the rain.’
    • ‘Shoots of M. micrantha were separated into stems, leaves, and reproductive organs.’
    • ‘There is no green, but leaves of the plants around that area are yellow.’
    • ‘Roselle is a woody annual, with green leaves on stems which are usually red.’
    • ‘It has three curved green leaves on each stem, with a large purple blossom in the middle.’
    • ‘The stems and large leaves on the stalk combine almost musically to enhance the richness of the composition.’
    • ‘Both have stems, leaves, and reproductive structures, but they look very different.’
    1. 1.1Any of a number of plant structures similar to leaves, e.g. bracts, sepals, and petals.
    2. 1.2[mass noun]Foliage regarded collectively.
      • ‘Providing you prepare the soil well, and top dress every year with more compost, you can plant climbers quite densely, two or three feet apart, for a wealth of leaf, colour and scent.’
      • ‘She kept her eyes straight ahead as she flew over the rest of the clearing and then into a dense forest, her bare feet racing and leaping over stone and leaf.’
      • ‘To provide a backdrop to this foliage-ruled leafscape, use climbers to link together canopies of leaf.’
    3. 1.3[mass noun]The state of having leaves.
      ‘the trees are still in leaf’
      • ‘The oak tree is being more cautious, of course, and will wait a while yet before venturing into leaf.’
      • ‘It could be that the oak tree will be a clue when it's in leaf.’
      • ‘In fact every tree and shrub in the garden is in bud at least, and some are coming into leaf.’
      • ‘This, I notice, has come into leaf which could be an indication that roots have formed.’
      • ‘And our interest does not stop when the saplings go into leaf.’
      • ‘It is one of the first trees in the arboretum to come into leaf and flowers prolifically with large creamy/pink blossoms in spring.’
      • ‘The bare branches of deciduous trees don't muffle noises like they do when they're in leaf.’
      • ‘Lift, divide and spread out winter aconites while still in leaf.’
      • ‘It is early spring, since the trees are just coming into leaf, and the low grass is still yellowish.’
      • ‘Lilies are better planted in the autumn as they come into leaf very early in the spring.’
      • ‘Groups of bulbs such as daffodils that have become overcrowded and have stopped flowering can be dug up and split whilst in leaf.’
      • ‘They enjoy a well-drained soil and will stay in leaf until about May, when they die down and lie dormant until the following autumn.’
      • ‘Outside now that the trees planted last year have started coming into leaf the area is taking on a plaza look.’
      • ‘It's a wonderful tree, the only drawback being that it comes into leaf long after most other garden plants, in late spring to early summer.’
      • ‘Lift bedded out begonias while still in leaf; put them in boxes in a dry shed or greenhouse to dry out and die back gradually.’
      • ‘Many said they believe that it's unnecessary to drastically prune trees in the summer just as they come into leaf.’
      • ‘Normally elder would come into leaf in late February or March, and into blossom in late April or May.’
      • ‘For all that it is still March, only a couple of days past the solstice, and few trees are yet in leaf, today could have been a summer's day.’
      • ‘He wanted to see the trees in his garden coming into leaf.’
      • ‘Trees on the opposite bank were bursting into leaf, although the sun was defiantly not shining.’
    4. 1.4[mass noun]The leaves of tobacco or tea.
      [as modifier] ‘leaf tea’
      • ‘In other words, tobacco used to be a herbal medicine but public experimentation led to the smoking of the tobacco leaf.’
      • ‘It is topped off with clove scented apple jelly together with steaming cups of leaf tea brewed from the kettle ever boiling on the hob.’
      • ‘So I got some tobacco leaf, mixed it with water and gave it to the baby.’
      • ‘The houseboy brings in raspberry leaf tea, and we talk about everything from sex to finances to communication.’
      • ‘Richard and Liz say customers comment on the excellent waitress service, quality menu items, and traditional touches such as leaf tea served with a teapot and strainer.’
      • ‘But if you have a place in your town that sells loose leaf teas, you really need to head down that path.’
      • ‘I took the raspberry leaf tea with milk from Neville's nanny, but no sugar as it made me restless.’
      • ‘Bill, who spends the rest of the year running a herd of pedigree Welsh Black cattle at Trefawr Farm, Llanfyrnach, confided that loose leaf tea was the secret of a good cuppa.’
      • ‘The tiny tobacconist shop was dark and reeked pleasantly of exotic leaf.’
      • ‘They are whole leaf, natural teas.’
      • ‘This type of smokeless tobacco comes in loose leaf, plugs or twists.’
      • ‘Indeed, so smitten is she by alternative therapies that there were reports during the summer of a mercy dash across the country so that she did not have to go without her strawberry leaf tea.’
      • ‘Eighty rupees a kilo for long leaf tea was an unquestionable bargain.’
      • ‘Without playing the ‘Elitist Snob’ card too severely, let me just say this: Buy loose leaf tea.’
      • ‘Was there actual evidence from your client that the tobacco leaf was cut in order to enable it to fit into bags for easy transportation?’
      • ‘Tobacco, or some stronger leaf, smoulders in the ashtray.’
      • ‘They look like a giant teabag with the leaves missing: a mass of stretchy, white tissue with thousands of perforations.’
      • ‘Although they both carry the taste of the ornage bitterness of the Bergamot, the tea from the whole leaf brew holds on to the tongue far longer.’
      • ‘Our tea sales have continued to grow, even our loose leaf tea.’
      • ‘The price of tobacco was high, the purchaser getting enough leaf to balance the silver coins placed on the other pan of the scales.’
  • 2A thing that resembles a leaf in being flat and thin.

    • ‘Flat, thin leaves of horn were translucent and used for windowpanes in place of glass.’
    1. 2.1A single thickness of paper, especially in a book with each side forming a page.
      • ‘It works like a book whose leaves have remained uncut - you press down in the middle and the pages come to lie besides each other.’
      • ‘So that he's working on the second gathering, the second four pages, the second leaf, while they are already preparing the parts for the incomplete cantata.’
      • ‘He went over to her and took the book from her hand; still keeping the page he then marked the page with a small leaf of paper.’
      • ‘Anne replied on another leaf: ‘By daily proof you shall me find / To be to you both loving and kind.’’
      • ‘With stifled sobs, she unfolded the single leaf of paper from within and began to read the rigid, soldier-like writing.’
      • ‘It prints off a leaf of paper and spits it at the man in the lab coat.’
      • ‘They wrote down all their ideas on a fresh leaf of white lined paper and soon filled up both sides of it.’
      • ‘She pulled it out of her book case and turned the leaves to the page around October of that year.’
      • ‘A single leaf surviving in manuscript used to be thought to be a forgery, but is now considered a genuine contemporary copy of part of one scene.’
      • ‘‘That is an incredible price and it is about 10 times more than any Beethoven sketch leaf has ever gone for,’ he said.’
      • ‘A leaf of paper tumbled out, folded into a tight square.’
      • ‘Against a delicate leaf of paper, the sound of a rapidograph is as raw as the line it produces.’
      • ‘Thus, at an etymological level, leaves and paper, and leaves and books are deeply connected.’
      • ‘There stood my ‘sister’, and a small box containing a single leaf of paper.’
      • ‘I took out the loose leaf of paper that had my Kitten drawing on it.’
      page, sheet, folio, flyleaf
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2[mass noun], [with modifier]Gold, silver, or other specified metal in the form of very thin foil.
      ‘gold leaf’
      • ‘Gold leaf has been applied to the clock's numerals.’
      • ‘He recently began to put gold and silver metal leaf under the paint, and he uses a hand-rubbing technique to create a soft, antiqued look.’
      • ‘Gold leaf used in gilding is made in much the same way.’
      • ‘The delicate delineations of each square of metal leaf create subtle patterns.’
      • ‘Gold leaf was then used to enrich the surfaces of paintings, sculptures, buildings, pottery and manuscripts.’
      • ‘Malleable, silver may be beaten into a leaf 0.00025 millimeters thin.’
      • ‘In the early 1970s very thin leaf gold was skillfully implanted on rhodochrosite to make spectacular faked specimens.’
      • ‘Aziz didn't need to ask to know that the gold was not leaf, but real gold, most likely twenty-four karats.’
      • ‘Gold leaf frames are also a standard for the company.’
      • ‘To transfer the leaf to the adhesive, use the sheets of tissue that come with the metal leaf, or use waxed paper pieces.’
      • ‘The stacks were then hammered until the gold had spread sufficiently to make a thin foil or leaf.’
      • ‘Within the cradle of the metal leaf covering was an array of multi-colored lights, each panel serving a different purpose.’
      • ‘Twelve pence worth of leaf gold was an expensive amount.’
      • ‘Sometimes metallic coatings are applied, e.g. in the form of leaf silver.’
      • ‘Gold leaf was applied to the background and his tunic, and perhaps the wreath in his hair, after the panel was placed on the mummy.’
      • ‘On top of this sheet, smooth down a sheet of metal leaf.’
      • ‘Tiny bits of metal leaf come together like a textured, variegated sheet on craft projects.’
      • ‘Gold leaf is carefully rubbed onto the lightly glued surface around the tempera and the entire object is then varnished with a gloss finish.’
      • ‘Knapp decorated the sliding hatch in the dining room with gold, silver, and copper leaf on enamel, replacing an earlier plain copper sheet.’
    3. 2.3The hinged part or flap of a door, shutter, or table.
      • ‘Take the old hinge screw or the hinge leaf with you to the store to make sure the new screw is the right size for your hinge.’
      • ‘Place the hinge leaf in the mortise and position the self-centering tool in the countersink recesses of the hinge.’
      • ‘A large solitary crane takes off to the left, subtly guiding the eye towards the missing leaf of the double door or shutter where the seascape doubtless continued.’
      • ‘You could have a table that folds down from the wall or even a table with leaves, and throw a dinner party for four in the space the bed would be taking up.’
    4. 2.4An extra section inserted to extend a table.
      • ‘Clear the writing items off the desk, take out the leaf in the table, hide the telephone and get rid of the porcelain figurines!’
      • ‘They are a little like the leaves of a dining table that can be used to make it longer.’
    5. 2.5The inner or outer part of a cavity wall or double-glazed window.
      • ‘Remove the outer brick leaf to damp proof course level and rebuild the walling, ensuring the wall ties are inserted in the correct positions.’
      • ‘In consequence, the tiling could not be nailed at every course and relied solely on the mortar bedding to the outer leaf of brickwork.’


  • 1(of a plant, especially a deciduous one in spring) put out new leaves.

    ‘many plants need a period of dormancy before they leaf and flower’
    • ‘You can transplant existing shrubs and perennial plants before they begin to leaf out.’
    • ‘Ash trees were leafing up, the hedges were thick.’
    • ‘Each plant emerges from an underground rhizome in the spring before the tree canopy leafs out.’
    • ‘You can transplant in the spring up until the plants leaf out.’
    • ‘Most trees are leafing out already; some have made significant progress.’
    • ‘Once it leafs out it is a wonderful privacy screen.’
    • ‘But if you prune back hard or after the tree leafs out in spring, it may be slower to come into bloom that year.’
    • ‘There is a downside to leaving it a while, the trees will have leafed up and you won't see so far, but I would wait.’
    • ‘The ancient olive trees, budding once more and leafing, feel a bit foolish; how much more absurd is the staff of legends that, stuck in the ground, blossoms.’
    • ‘The dates of observation were 17-19 May 1998, during which the weather was dry with average spring temperatures and the tree canopy had not leafed out.’
    • ‘The eggs were not laid until the last week of April, as the weather warmed up, serviceberry bloomed, and maples, poplars, birches, and beeches were leafing out.’
    put out leaves, bud, burst into leaves
    View synonyms
  • 2Turn over (the pages of a book or the papers in a pile), reading them quickly or casually.

    ‘he leafed through the stack of notes’
    • ‘He approached it on tip toes, leafing through a pile of papers on the surface.’
    • ‘Stretched out next to the sofa was Julie, leafing lazily through a magazine.’
    • ‘I noticed that he was leafing through some folders on his desk, and I was struck by a question.’
    • ‘I sat on the cot and leafed through a magazine, shivering silently.’
    • ‘"All right then, " said the magistrate, leafing through some papers.’
    • ‘Picking one at random, he leafed idly through it as he let his mind work.’
    • ‘So I did what Pa asked, and leafed through the book, its pages heavy and dusty, well-inscribed and made to last for centuries.’
    • ‘But anyway, she pulled out my folder and began leafing through the papers inside.’
    • ‘Either study abroad or leaf through the books of some great photographers in the world.’
    • ‘He leafed through a stack of letters, splitting them into bills and correspondence.’
    • ‘I've only leafed through a copy, and read the first chapter.’
    • ‘Next to that is another device - a page turner that automatically leafs through any book placed on a raised platform, operated at the touch of a button.’
    • ‘You can turn the pages as though leafing through the book.’
    • ‘I let him leaf through the first few pages before I spoke up again.’
    • ‘He was leafing through folders of paper, taking notes on a large yellow pad.’
    • ‘And, besides, it seems to impress the most attractive men on train journeys when you leaf through the pages of such highbrow reading matter and display interest in more than just the pictures.’
    • ‘I reached for a poetry book and sat quietly for a while, leafing through the pages.’
    • ‘I leafed through the stack in my hand.’
    • ‘As she leafs through the yellow pages, my eyes try in vain to grab a word or two from the looped, fastidious handwriting.’
    • ‘How about having a cup of freshly brewed coffee while leafing through pages of an interesting book?’
    flick, flip, thumb, skim, browse, glance, look, riffle
    View synonyms


  • shake (or tremble) like a leaf

    • (of a person) tremble greatly, especially from fear.

      • ‘He opened the cellar door and slipped inside in a whisper, shut the door and locked it, and stood there trembling like a leaf.’
      • ‘Looking at her, she seemed to know exactly what he was talking about as soon as she caught sight of Scarlett, who was trembling like a leaf by now at having so many people looking at her.’
      • ‘I was shaking like a leaf on the first tee, as nervous standing over the ball as I had ever been in my life.’
      • ‘I was shaking like a leaf, and she told me to ring the police.’
      • ‘I was really shaking like a leaf when we first showed it.’
      • ‘Just thinking about it makes me shake like a leaf.’
      • ‘She breathes heavily and, although trembling like a leaf from the shock, she succeeds in untying herself.’
      • ‘Roger was the last to cross and his knees shook like a leaf.’
      • ‘‘I mean, I was shaking like a leaf,’ she confesses.’
      • ‘Absolutely terrified and trembling like a leaf, I sat down and played for him.’


Old English lēaf, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch loof and German Laub.