Definition of olive in English:



  • 1A small oval fruit with a hard stone and bitter flesh, green when unripe and bluish black when ripe, used as food and as a source of oil.

    ‘a dish of cauliflower with black olives’
    as modifier ‘a cucumber and olive salad’
    • ‘Stone the small black olives and toss in a little olive oil.’
    • ‘Then there were four sauce boats with chillies and black and green olives.’
    • ‘Serve as a starter or party opener with dishes of green and black olives, gherkins, a dip with potato chips and a glass of chilled dry Muscat.’
    • ‘This offers complimentary appetisers of humus, black and green olives in herbs and bread; a first course choice of humus, kisir, tabbouleh, soup or salad with fetta cheese.’
    • ‘Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10 minutes, while you cut the pitted black and green olives into small bits and rinse and chop the capers.’
    • ‘I ordered the tuna salad with cherry tomatoes, sugar snaps, new potatoes, black olives, red chard and vinaigrette of baby capers and fresh herbs.’
    • ‘I particularly liked the leaves of baby gem lettuce, the oven-roasted tomatoes and the black and green olives.’
    • ‘For £3.99, Ann chose penne niçoise, a dish consisting of tubes of pasta in a classic Italian tomato and herb sauce with green beans, courgettes and black olives.’
    • ‘From February onwards, ripe olives are picked.’
    • ‘Add grilled cherry tomatoes, stoned black olives, cavello nero and some fresh basil leaves.’
    • ‘He had another two hours before he had to leave, and the smell of pepperoni, black olives, green peppers and extra cheese wafting out from Simon's office was just too much to take.’
    • ‘‘For us,’ he handed Cryssy a box of pizza that was covered in black olives, green pepper, onion, sausage, and pineapple.’
    • ‘And, of course, there are olives: green, black, red, hot, sweet, sour, wine-soaked or served with garlic relish.’
    • ‘A side of green and black olives was 30 cents, a side of French fries was 30 cents.’
    • ‘Fortunately, I love both olives and olive oil so I shall add a handful of ripe black olives to my dinner, and slurp a big spoonful of olive oil every day.’
    • ‘I want to know if you'll be happy, if you'll marry, if you'll read good books, if you'll favour black olives over green, as I do.’
    • ‘The side dish the day I visited was a simple mixed olive salad, a mélange of black and green olives with spicy oil.’
    • ‘To top it all off, dust with sliced black olives and green onions.’
    • ‘This is then baked and served on a bed of field greens, tomatoes, feta, banana peppers and black olives.’
    • ‘Huge wafts of liquorice lift from the glass, then the palate is pummelled with savoury white pepper touches, meaty black fruit, green olives and a grippy warm finish.’
  • 2The small evergreen tree which produces olives and which has narrow leaves with silvery undersides, native to warm regions of the Old World.

    Olea europaea, family Oleaceae (the olive family). This family also includes the ash, lilac, jasmine, and privet

    • ‘A wide area of coastal plains extends across the western seaboard, a region of phosphate mining and the cultivation of citrus, olives, tobacco, and grains.’
    • ‘Among some of the trees planted, to serve the export market, were almonds, olives, apricots and figs.’
    • ‘A wide variety, from olives and palms to oaks and pines, is available.’
    • ‘Willow, olives and tamarind are also introduced as all are species that thrive on riverbanks.’
    • ‘Away from the town, the walk to the monastery takes one through groves of olives and almonds, and vineyards bearing the sign of Torres, the dominant local wine producer.’
    • ‘You can never forget the beautiful landscapes of hills, vineyards, olive groves, almond orchards and endless wheat fields.’
    • ‘Palms, ancient olives, oleanders, plus white walls and a bunch of tall palm trees lend this 15 th-century masseria a Moorish air.’
    • ‘When you gaze down into the valley from San Gimignano, south of Florence, you see peaceful groves of olives and vines reflected in a beautiful Tuscan light.’
    • ‘And you can see it was for this area, this empty area, once was all nice palm trees, citrus, olives, everything was destroyed and now it's empty, it's a desert and they capture the land.’
    • ‘The mineral-rich, red earth is capable of supporting three crops of potatoes a year and the countryside has groves of olive, almond, fig, orange and lemon trees.’
    • ‘Simply pack a picnic hamper and head off through the olive and cypress groves for tiny inland settlements like Klonatika, Fontana and Anemogianatika which has twice as many letters in its name as houses!’
    • ‘The Mediterranean vegetable garden includes an old water tank as well as displays of rosemary, thyme, pumpkins, figs, globe artichokes, olives and grapevines.’
    • ‘Laurel and lemon, olive and oak, cypress and palm trees make unlikely neighbors in the region's mild, dry climate.’
    • ‘Mosses, ferns, lichens and orchids thrive in the damp atmosphere of the Crater, giving way to huge mahogany, olive and date palm trees on the drier crater walls.’
    • ‘Israel has implemented a scorched earth policy and uprooted nearly 400,000 olive, citrus and almond trees.’
    • ‘Instead they can look forward to suntans, palm trees, olive groves, melanoma and malaria.’
    • ‘Messenia, part of the Peloponnese, is silvery with olive groves and lined with beaches, and ancient Messeni, Sparta, Mystras and the Mani are all within day-trip range.’
    • ‘Everywhere there were date palm groves, olive, banana, orange, lemon and grapefruit orchards, as well as well kept and well irrigated fields.’
    • ‘The olive is an evergreen with foliage of a distinctive silvery-green.’
    • ‘Garlic is grown in the region and olives are also prevelant.’
    1. 2.1 Used in names of other trees which are related to the olive, resemble it, or bear similar fruit, e.g. Russian olive.
  • 3mass noun A greyish-green colour like that of an unripe olive.

    ‘shades of gold, olive, and black’
    greenish, viridescent
    View synonyms
  • 4A slice of beef or veal made into a roll with stuffing inside and stewed.

    • ‘While the girls waited to discover how her beef olives would turn out, and what Biffo would make of them, Haig took some lost property to the police house and some coins up to the pub.’
    • ‘English cooks were doing this in the 17th century and calling the result ‘veal olives’, a curious term whose origin is explained under beef olives.’
    • ‘On the roof we sat and had the ham and olives rolls that Cristina had prepared.’
    • ‘I went off-menu for the main course, choosing the spicy Moroccan casserole of chicken and lamb sausage, while Michael opted for the beef olives filled with haggis and braised in ale gravy.’
  • 5A marine mollusc with a smooth, roughly cylindrical shell which is typically brightly coloured.

    Genus Oliva, family Olividae, class Gastropoda

    • ‘The blue-winged olive and pale watery populations have suffered similar falls.’
    • ‘A large tented olive shell is prominently placed in the center of the composition.’
  • 6Anatomy
    Each of a pair of smooth, oval swellings in the medulla oblongata.

    • ‘The arterial supply and the microanatomy of the anterior surface of the medulla oblongata and olive were studied in 11 cadaveric specimens’
    • ‘Transverse section through the medulla at the level of the mid-point of the olive.’
  • 7A metal ring or fitting which is tightened under a threaded nut to form a seal, as in a compression joint.

    • ‘Such olive seals have the advantage of sealing in the inside of the container opening where normally there is to be found an exactly defined sealing surface without damage.’
    • ‘The olive seal 25 depends from the underside of the top plate 20.’
    • ‘Alternatively, the front bearing assembly could be reversed, with the shaft mounted in the flow straightener hub, and the olive ring and endstone in the inducer hub.’


  • 1Greyish-green.

    ‘a small figure in olive fatigues’
    • ‘The next day the highly decorated young man wore his ‘Easter Monday’ best of unstarched and well-worn olive fatigues.’
    • ‘At the doctor's skeptical look, her blood-shot olive eyes narrowed to a challenging glare on him.’
    • ‘Taking the stage in the early evening sunlight in their trademark masks and olive jumpsuits, they both enthralled and amused festival-goers.’
    • ‘Men's looks harkened back a decade or more, with safari jackets, a '70s-era glen-plaid shirt jacket and an all-American baseball jacket in olive suede.’
    • ‘I wore a light gray button up shirt with olive dress pants.’
    • ‘They were young men in olive fatigues who had been caught out in South Lebanon, where they should never have been in the first place.’
    • ‘I come to a crew-cut young man in a military uniform-ish olive sweater with funny shoulder pads sitting in a little booth.’
    • ‘He looked the part too, that artsy, political sort of look, longish hair, dress shirt, olive army jacket, flip-flop sandals.’
    • ‘I catch the motion with which a man tosses water from a brush onto a setting cement curb, while another trowels the cement to an olive shine.’
    • ‘Observing the aluminum skin, rivets and olive paint scheme, I suspected it to be a WWII era fighter’
    1. 1.1 (of the complexion) yellowish-brown; sallow.
      ‘his full lips and olive skin’
      • ‘Margaret's skin was a lighter shade of olive that was so smooth that she was the envy of all the other girls, purely for her complexion.’
      • ‘The woman looks fairly normal: dark brown hair, olive complexion, liquid black eyes, large lips.’
      • ‘The white of the cloth off-set the young girl's olive complexion, dark eyes and hair perfectly.’
      • ‘My own mother had a lightly olive complexion with very dark brown hair when she was young.’
      • ‘The man spoke with an outlandish accent, presumably from the desert, judging from his leathery skin and olive complexion.’
      • ‘His skin was darker than a Urani's wont and slightly olive skinned.’
      • ‘The teenage offender is described as 170 cm tall, of medium build, with an olive complexion, and short dark curly hair.’
      • ‘They were all olive skinned, with dark curling hair of various lengths.’
      • ‘His hair is brown, a mass of curls that are almost too long for SAP's dress code, and he has a dark, kind of olive complexion.’
      • ‘Here among all the blonde hair and fair skin of the Dramarians, my dark brown curls and olive complexion seemed exotic and exciting.’
      • ‘His olive complexion made his dark green eyes stand out.’
      • ‘Her Italian background blessed her with a clear, dark olive complexion and deep russet hair.’
      • ‘The man is described as aged around 40, 5ft 8ins, with short dark hair, an olive complexion and spoke with broken English.’
      • ‘The woman who offered to help was in her forties, with long dark hair and an olive complexion.’
      • ‘His dark olive complexion, jet black hair, and deep brown eyes gave him the quintessential Mediterranean look favored by women.’
      • ‘His skin was pale compared to my olive complexion.’
      • ‘Leigh on the other hand, was a tall and slender figured girl, with an olive complexion and dark violet tresses longer than her back.’
      • ‘He had dark chestnut brown hair without a receding hairline, and eyes, and his skin had an almost olive complexion.’
      • ‘Colin studied the dark circles under her eyes and the unhappy expression on her face, her skin was olive and smooth.’
      • ‘She has an olive complexion, brown eyes, very long dark hair and wears a brace on her teeth.’
      swarthy, sallow, dusky, black, ebony
      View synonyms


Middle English: via Old French from Latin oliva, from Greek elaia, from elaion ‘oil’.