Definition of buckthorn in US English:



  • 1A shrub or small tree of the buckthorn family, typically bearing thorns. Some kinds yield dyes, and others have been used medicinally.

    Genus Rhamnus, family Rhamnaceae: several species, including the European common buckthorn (R. cathartica), now established in the northeastern and central US, and the Carolina buckthorn (R. caroliniana) of the southern US

    • ‘These herbal teas typically include senna, aloe, buckthorn and other plant-derived laxatives.’
    • ‘We do not recommend strong laxatives such as senna or buckthorn for you.’
    • ‘It requires two species of host plant to complete its life cycle: common buckthorn and soybean.’
    • ‘Minqin also planted ramparts of rose willow, buckthorn and other deep-root trees in a 200-mile file along the desert fronts.’
    • ‘The jujube (pronounced juh-ju-bee or juh-juh-bee) is a member of the buckthorn family, or Rhamnaceae.’
  • 2A shrub or small tree of the sapodilla family, with sharp thorns and clusters of small white flowers, commonly found in moist soils of the southern and central US.

    Bumelia lycioides, family Sapotaceae

    • ‘The surprising thing was the field was quite far from any buckthorn where aphids might have over-wintered.’
    • ‘Thirty hours after we set off, we encounter our final test, orienteering through buckthorn, insidious brush that's nicknamed Big Bear Barbwire.’
    • ‘Multiple generations of wingless female aphids are produced on soybeans until late summer/fall, when winged females and males are produced that migrate back to buckthorn, where they mate.’
    • ‘Tending gardens and farms amongst such lushness, I was tested by tenacious Himalayan blackberry, sharp buckthorn, and deep rooted, heavy seeded, curly dock.’
    • ‘Both Ives Road Fen and Hillside Prairie have large populations of glossy buckthorn, cattails (Typha L. spp.), and purple loosestrife (C. Clampitt pers. comm.).’


Late 16th century: from buck in the sense ‘deer’ + thorn, translating modern Latin spina cervina.