Definition of wormwood in US English:



  • 1A woody shrub with a bitter aromatic taste, used as an ingredient of vermouth and absinthe and in medicine.

    Genus Artemisia, family Compositae: several species, in particular the Eurasian A. absinthium

    • ‘Yes, absinthe is made with wormwood, which contains a psychoactive chemical called thujon, which causes mild hallucinations.’
    • ‘For such a man these herbs should be used: lupin, helenium (which we call elf-dock), marsh mallow, dock elder, wormwood and strawberry leaves.’
    • ‘A short while after, I passed out - the wormwood must have made me sick.’
    • ‘Bitter herbs that would help would be gentian, artichoke, bitter orange, turmeric, wormwood and chamomile.’
    • ‘Hemingway later blamed the damage on woodworm, a witty reference to absinthe's quasi - magical ingredient - wormwood.’
    • ‘The more classic version is the almost dry, bitter drink with the strong aroma of wormwood and other bitter herbs.’
    • ‘This is a powdered mixture of natural ingredients that contains garlic as well as alfalfa, wormwood, yellowdock and pennyroyal.’
    • ‘Examples of carbonizing herbs to stop bleeding are carbonized cattail pollen, carbonized human hair, carbonized agrimony and carbonized wormwood or mugwort.’
    • ‘The drug is extracted from the leaf of the Chinese weed Artemisia annua or sweet wormwood.’
    • ‘And for that matter, surely someone ought also to have known that absinthe is made with wormwood, not digitalis.’
    • ‘She knew dressmaking, and she had been taught to cook a little bit, and how to care for the sick and wounded; she knew something of the use of plants and herbs - sage and lavender, fennel and hore-hound and wormwood.’
  • 2A state or source of bitterness or grief.

    • ‘To be sure, the morbidity has become less lush; it's been distilled into essence of wormwood.’
    • ‘The survivors of the 1996 election were relegated to a kind of mute opposition, forced to sip wormwood from the cup of their own brewing.’


Old English wermōd. The change in spelling in late Middle English was due to association with worm and wood. Compare with vermouth.