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From Middle English bawme, from Anglo-Norman and Middle French baume, from Old French basme, from Latin balsamum, itself from Ancient Greek βάλσαμον (bálsamon). Spelling modified 16th c. to conform to Latin etymology. Doublet of balsam.



balm (countable and uncountable, plural balms)

  1. Any of various aromatic resins exuded from certain plants, especially trees of the genus Commiphora of Africa, Arabia and India and Myroxylon of South America.
  2. An aromatic preparation for embalming the dead.
  3. A plant or tree yielding such substance.
  4. Any soothing oil or lotion, especially an aromatic one.
  5. (figuratively) Something soothing.
    Classical music is a sweet balm for our sorrows.
    • 1781, [Mostyn John Armstrong], History and Antiquities of the County of Norfolk. Volume IX. Containing the Hundreds of Smithdon, Taverham, Tunstead, Walsham, and Wayland, volume IX, Norwich: Printed by J. Crouse, for M. Booth, bookseller, →OCLC, page 51:
      BEAT on, proud billows; Boreas blow; / Swell, curled waves, high as Jove's roof; / Your incivility doth ſhow, / That innocence is tempeſt proof; / Though ſurly Nereus frown, my thoughts are calm; / Then ſtrike, Affliction, for thy wounds are balm. [Attributed to Roger L'Estrange (1616–1704).]
  6. The lemon balm, Melissa officinalis
  7. Any of a number of other aromatic herbs with a similar citrus-like scent, such as bee balm and horsebalm.


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balm (third-person singular simple present balms, present participle balming, simple past and past participle balmed)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To anoint with balm, or with anything medicinal.
  2. (transitive, figurative) To soothe; to mitigate.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hall, Joseph Sargent (March 2, 1942), “3. The Consonants”, in The Phonetics of Great Smoky Mountain Speech (American Speech: Reprints and Monographs; 4), New York: King's Crown Press, →DOI, →ISBN, § 11, page 104.