One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A small European plant of the pea family, with yellow flowers and three-lobed clover-like leaves.
Genera Trifolium and Lotus, family Leguminosae: several species, in particular the bird's-foot trefoil
- ‘Saint Patrick used a seamróg, called a trefoil or three-leaf clover, to illustrate the concept of the trinity to the people.’
- ‘Because trefoils are legumes, they fix nitrogen into the soil for later use by grasses and forbs.’
- ‘In its first year, the Buzz Project found that in fields containing margins of natural clovers and trefoils an average 1,850 bumble bees were found per hectare.’
- ‘This ancient breed (Neolithic bones reveal its ancestry here) graze on heather grassland rich with wild flowers and herbs such as thyme, violets, orchids, primroses or bird's foot trefoil.’
- ‘Her sea-pinks, meadow-sweet, hairbells, daisies, trefoils, orchids and clovers are all still there in a rich rug of purples, blues, pinks, yellows and creams.’
- 1.1 A plant with three-lobed leaves that is similar or related to the trefoil.
- ‘It is sometimes called wild chervil; and also has the names honewort (used of the closely related C. canadensis in N. America) and trefoil (but this last is used of other plants also).’
- 1.2 An ornamental design of three rounded lobes like a clover leaf, used typically in architectural tracery.as modifier ‘trefoil windows’
- ‘Rather like the Venetians - the difference being that Venice went on evolving: its Byzantine ogees and trefoils made room for Palladio and all that.’
- ‘In addition, the top areas of the main windows are decorated with stone tracery describing trefoils, quatrefoils and Moorish arches.’
- ‘At the tops of the windows, the artist has fun with the trefoils and quatrefoils, turning one into a black flower with yellow petals and another into a hovering cartoonlike form ringed by orange dots.’
- ‘Although the trefoil, bell, and other tracery figures had previously appeared in mural decoration, they acquired exceptional importance around 1500.’
- ‘The trefoil within the upper squares finds no counterpart above Gideon and the Burning Bush, though the tracery here falsely suggests an answering trefoil.’
- ‘To this fusion are added Gothic style elements in the legs (a rounded arch above and a trefoil below each), colorful French ceramics with a Moorish flavor, and exotic serpents on either side of the ceramic cylinder.’
- 1.3 A thing having three parts; a set of three.‘a trefoil of parachutes lowers the shuttle's used rockets to Earth’
Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French trifoil, from Latin trifolium, from tri- ‘three’ + folium ‘leaf’.
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