Definition of camas in US English:


(also camass, quamash)


  • A North American plant of the lily family, cultivated for its starry blue or purple flowers.

    Genera Camassia and Zigadenus, family Liliaceae: several species, including C. quamash, the large bulbs of which are edible

    • ‘I set out bulbs like daffodils and camas, which have naturalized with gusto.’
    • ‘Women gathered roots, prairie turnips, bitterroot, and camas bulbs in the early summer.’
    • ‘The horse-rich families with thirty horses apiece would go to hunt for meat and robes or to trade horses for buffalo robes or camas for clothing.’
    • ‘And if the blossom should be blue as the camas, orange and spotted as the tiger-lily, yellow as the broom or all of these, is it any less beautiful?’
    • ‘Pine nuts were particularly important toward the south and camas bulbs to the north.’
    • ‘The most significant of the edibles, camas was eaten during the first of many friendly encounters with the Nez Perce along Idaho's Clearwater River.’
    • ‘The bulb of the camas lily, which grows primarily in wet meadows, was a principal plant food.’
    • ‘The wetter areas support meadows containing Missouri goldenrod, false toadflax, golden-glow, Indian paintbrush, Mariposa lily, death camas, and prairie smoke.’
    • ‘More commonly known as a spring bulb with a vibrant blue flower, quamash is native to Canada and the western United States, and its edible bulb was once a mainstay of native diets.’
    • ‘Believing they had left the conflict behind them, they rested, cut tepee poles and cooked camas in preparation for their journey to the buffalo country of eastern Montana.’


Mid 19th century: from Chinook Jargon kamass, perhaps from Nootka.