Definition of thistle in US English:



  • 1A widely distributed herbaceous plant of the daisy family, which typically has a prickly stem and leaves and rounded heads of purple flowers.

    Carlina, Cirsium, Carduus, and other genera, family Compositae: numerous species, including bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and nodding (or musk) thistle (Carduus nutans)

    • ‘But just let it rain and the next thing I know I've got thistles out there with stems big as my wrist.’
    • ‘For instance, dock and beggarticks often indicate wet soil, while thistles and mullein indicate a dry soil.’
    • ‘The flower heads are small and numerous compared to other thistles and the roots are extensive.’
    • ‘It is a tall plant up to 3ft high and the flower head is just as prickly as a thistle.’
    • ‘The grass hasn't been mown for some time - it was knee high - and there were flowering thistles as well.’
    • ‘Imagine that: in the middle of London, a meadow, wild with thistles and long grass and flowers, with a family of escaped rabbits running wild and an area of grass just big enough for a decent game of rounders.’
    • ‘It's used to get rid of dandelions, thistles and ragweed and it kills by causing abnormal cell growth that interrupts the movement of liquids and nutrients in the plant.’
    • ‘Did God create thorns and thistles, and poisonous plants?’
    • ‘The thistle is a biennial plant, and this one is in its first year, when it develops a deep taproot.’
    • ‘It attacks the thistle's leaves and stem, forming orange-brown lumps called pustules.’
    • ‘A large variety of shrubs have already been planted in the garden including thistles, dogrose, wild primulas and teasel.’
    • ‘Although these thin gloves may not hold up the best when you're doing tougher chores like pulling thistles or pruning rose bushes, they make a great addition to your gardening supply kit.’
    • ‘Goldfinches enjoy eating the seeds of many meadow flowers including daisy, dandelion, and thistle.’
    • ‘These so-called host plants include many broadleaf weeds and cover crops such as nettles, mallow, chicory, dandelion, thistles, bindweed, deadly nightshade, and many clovers.’
    • ‘Highly invasive thistles from Europe have widely hybridized in Australia.’
    • ‘There are several big holes in the grassy area around the playground, large stinging nettles and thistles, loose nuts and bolts on the park's railings and uneven ground.’
    • ‘In appearance, artichoke looks a bit like a thistle, though it is a member of the daisy family.’
    • ‘Reveling in the sheer variety of natural forms, the photographer renders with equal finesse the undulating curves of dahlia blossoms and the bristling spikes of thistles and cacti.’
    • ‘In the winter, Chukars feed primarily on seeds, cheatgrass, and thistles, switching to insects and green leaves in the summer.’
    • ‘Two years ago there were lovely flowers growing here and now, there's nothing but thistles and weeds.’
  • 2A thistle as the Scottish national emblem.

    This is usually identified as the Scotch (or cotton) thistle (Onopordum acanthium)

    • ‘The buttonholes worn by the groom and best man were made from an English rose and a Scottish thistle.’
    • ‘The images of the Scottish thistle, the lion rampant, and the Saint Andrew's cross on the national flags come from that period.’
    • ‘The thistle at far right signifies the Scottish-born Stewart's ancestry, that plant being Scotland's national emblem.’
    • ‘In some instances symbols of national pride were also used, among them the English rose, Irish shamrock, and Scottish thistle.’
    • ‘Also known as cotton thistle, it is native to Mediterranean Europe, Africa and the Middle East.’
    • ‘The oil from the seeds of cotton thistles was extracted for fuel and knapweed, centaurea scabiosa, was believed to promote healing of bruises and wounds.’


Old English thistel, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch distel and German Distel.