One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A widely distributed herbaceous plant of the rose family, with compound leaves of five leaflets and five-petaled yellow flowers.
Genus Potentilla, family Rosaceae: numerous species, including the small-flowered creeping common cinquefoil (P. simplex) and the larger-flowered erect rough-fruited cinquefoil (P. recta)
- ‘If you have a toothache or mouth sore, you might try cinquefoil, a native plant.’
- ‘Rare cinquefoil bloom just inches from the path and marsh grasses waft in the breeze.’
- ‘The Robbins' cinquefoil is endemic to a harsh alpine environment in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire.’
- ‘Deciduous cinquefoil has long been used for borders and ground covers in cold-climate gardens.’
- ‘One of these plants, Robbins' cinquefoil or dwarf cinquefoil, has been proposed for removal from the federal endangered species list.’
An ornamental design of five lobes arranged in a circle, e.g. in architectural tracery or heraldry.
- ‘The cinquefoil, when inscribed in a circle, forms a rosette of five equal leaves having an open space in the middle, the leaves being formed by the open spaces.’
Middle English: from Latin quinquefolium, from quinque ‘five’ + folium ‘leaf’.
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