Definition of hemlock in US English:



  • 1A highly poisonous European plant of the parsley family, with a purple-spotted stem, fernlike leaves, small white flowers, and an unpleasant smell.

    Conium maculatum, family Umbelliferae

    • ‘The herb is not described in the ballad, but it could well have been hemlock, since it has been used for herbal abortions.’
    • ‘If attacked by parasitic flies that lay eggs in their bodies, they switch to a diet of poisonous hemlocks.’
    • ‘Robert Boyle, the seventeenth century scientist, thought walking about on hemlock leaves all day was a fantastic way to cure the kittens.’
    • ‘It was, of course, a poisonous plant, hemlock, that gave Athens its state poison, used for the execution of Socrates.’
    • ‘Here lie the remains of Rudolph's winter camp, a collection of small living stations scattered over an acre of terrain, camouflaged by patches of hemlock and laurel.’
    • ‘What a difference a week makes just now, verges frothy with cow parsley and hemlock, hillsides painted yellow with colza.’
    • ‘They are the tap roots of a plant in the umbelliferae family which includes parsley, cow parsley and hemlock.’
    1. 1.1 A sedative or poisonous potion obtained from the hemlock plant. Such a potion was said to have been used to poison Socrates.
      • ‘Condemned to die, he drank poison hemlock with noble calm and courage.’
      • ‘Socrates was condemned to death (poisoned by hemlock, so the legend goes) after his ‘Apologia’.’
      • ‘We all know that Socrates chose the hemlock… his real reason was that he considered exile an amputation of self.’
      • ‘When ordered to do so, he obediently drank a cup of poisonous hemlock and calmly died, having declared that he did not fear death since he could not know it to be an evil.’
      • ‘Nietzsche has no doubts that the corrupting influence on him was Socrates, fully deserving his hemlock not for his power over the youth of Athens, but over what might have been its continuing tragic greatness.’
      • ‘Is it the case that this relatively humane practice, the administration of hemlock, is what allows Socrates to consider that his death is not the highest price, that the highest price is the committing of an injustice?’
      • ‘In this one, a vicar dies of hemlock poisoning after having a meal at the home of a New Age herbalist in a very rural Lancashire village.’
      • ‘But in the autumn, a bizarre murder by hemlock plunges the family into disarray.’
      • ‘Just before drinking the hemlock Socrates makes a wonderful joke.’
      • ‘Accepting the hemlock rather than submitting to exile, Socrates proved that he shared both the mission and the ‘final destiny of the prophets and the righteous.’’
      • ‘Was he telling her that he'd been poisoned by poison hemlock?’
      • ‘She seemed to remember some important person being poisoned with hemlock.’
      • ‘She frantically searched thorough her herb bags, looking for her hemlock.’
      • ‘The herb was celebrated by the ancient Greeks as an antidote for hemlock poisoning.’
      • ‘There was no asp, and no other evidence of suicide beyond the presence of three dead or dying women - no cup of hemlock, no dagger, no poisoned comb.’
      • ‘As far as war games go, the company has raised the bar so high other developers must be reaching for the hemlock.’
      • ‘I gave her hemlock which can kill a daemon or a man.’
      • ‘Did anyone ever say, ‘Socrates, hemlock is poison’?’
      • ‘In the ‘Phaedo’, Socrates prepares to drink the hemlock.’
      • ‘Things finally got so bad in Athens — the state coffers were so empty — that prisoners sentenced to death had to pay for the hemlock with which they were to be killed.’
  • 2A coniferous North American tree with dark green foliage that is said to smell like hemlock when crushed, grown chiefly for timber and pulp production, and also grown in Europe as an ornamental.

    Genus Tsuga, family Pinaceae: several species, in particular eastern hemlock (T. canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (T. caroliniana)

    • ‘In severe winter weather turkeys will frequent conifer stands such as hemlock, spruce, and pines where the temperature and wind are more tolerable.’
    • ‘Fluffy white layers drape the branches of maples and hemlocks overhanging the road and the frozen creek running beside it.’
    • ‘Just a few hours from Portland, Ore., or Seattle, you can stroll through the lush foliage of ferns and wildflowers, beneath ancient spruce, hemlock and cedar trees.’
    • ‘The road runs down hushed aisles of lofty Douglas fir, hemlock and Sitka spruce, and passes through deadened stretches of clear-cut forest, forlorn and empty.’
    • ‘Beyond my kitchen's open windows were scarlet geraniums on the balcony; a background of pines, hemlocks and larches in the garden; blue sky; bees buzzing lazily among the flowers.’
    • ‘Fir, hemlock and Douglas fir are also sometimes planted.’
    • ‘As I approached where our driveway should be, I was overcome with my bodily need to be home: to be safe from this insanity, to be under the hemlocks with my family where I could calm my heart and catch my breath and sooth my animal body.’
    • ‘I planted three hemlocks years ago to form a sight block from our driveway to our back yard.’
    • ‘While hiking in Shenandoah National Park recently I was struck not by the number of families in an old-growth hemlock grove called the Limberlost, but by their obliviousness to the dead and dying trees around them.’
    • ‘Evergreen plants, including dwarf conifers such as hemlocks, junipers, pines, and spruces, can form a backbone to anchor the design of a rock garden.’
    • ‘I need to plant two hemlocks that are seven feet tall, I was wondering if I should untie the burlap sack or just leave it tied on to decompose.’
    • ‘Rusty Rhea sighs wistfully as he talks about the beauty and peace of standing amid a grove of deep green hemlocks in Appalachia, some of them up to 160 feet tall and more than 500 years old.’
    • ‘‘I think some of the hemlocks can grow to heights of 150 feet,’ she said.’
    • ‘Many of the needle evergreens including yew, arborvitae, hemlock, and incense cedar make fine hedges.’
    • ‘If redwood is not an option where you live, use similarly rot-resistant eastern or western red cedar, inexpensive hemlock, or consider the ersatz wood planks made of recycled plastic.’
    • ‘They passed through stands of red cedar and hemlock trees so tall and so ancient that the sunlight rarely touched the forest floor.’
    • ‘Around the house grows the thick hemlock and spruce forest that has brought more recent income to the tribe.’
    • ‘The company's winter logging consists of the second growth mix of fir, hemlock and red cedar that Christensen is harvesting.’
    • ‘When I arrive, I pitch my tent at the best of the 30 secluded spots: a little clearing by a bend in bubbling Long Creek hidden behind a grove of hemlocks and poplars - and a five-minute walk through the woods to the restaurant and lodge.’
    • ‘This restored forest would be dominated by long-lived, shade tolerant species like sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock, white pine and red spruce.’


Old English hymlice, hemlic, of unknown origin.