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See also: Berry


Baskets of various berries in the common sense. Only blueberries are berries in the botanical sense.
Collage of four berries in the botanical sense, not to the same scale: red gooseberries (left), red currants (top), a persimmon (bottom) and grapes (right).
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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English berye, from Old English beriġe, from Proto-Germanic *bazją[1] (compare German Beere, Norwegian and Danish bær), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰes- (to blow, chew, rub), compare Ancient Greek ψάω (psáō, I rub), Sanskrit बभस्ति (bábhasti, he chews, devours)[2]. For the semantic development, compare Old Church Slavonic гроуша (gruša, pear), from гроушити (grušiti, to break, destroy); Latin pirum (pear), from *peis- (to stick, pound)[3].

The slang sense “police car” may come from the lights on the vehicles’ roofs.[4]


berry (plural berries)

  1. A small succulent fruit, of any one of many varieties.
  2. (botany) A soft fruit which develops from a single ovary and contains seeds not encased in pits.
  3. A coffee bean.
  4. One of the ova or eggs of a fish.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Travis to this entry?)
  5. (slang, US, African American) a police car
Usage notes[edit]

Many fruits commonly regarded as berries, such as the strawberry and raspberry, are not berries in the botanical sense.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Marlies Philippa et al., eds., Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands, A-Z, s.v. “bes” (Amsterdam UP, 3 Dec. 2009) [1].
  2. ^ J.P. Mallory & D.Q. Adams, eds., Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, s.vv. “blow”, “rub” (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), pp. 72, 490.
  3. ^ Vladimir Orel, A Handbook of Germanic Etymology, s.v. “*ƀazjan” (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 40.
  4. ^ Jonathon Green (2018), “berry, n.1”, in Green's Dictionary of Slang[2]


berry (third-person singular simple present berries, present participle berrying, simple past and past participle berried)

  1. To pick berries.
    On summer days Grandma used to take us berrying, whether we wanted to go or not.
  2. To bear or produce berries.
Usage notes[edit]
  • Unlikely to be used to refer to commercial harvesting of berries.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English berȝe, berghe, from Old English beorġe, dative form of beorg (mountain, hill, mound, barrow), from Proto-Germanic *bergaz (mountain, hill). More at barrow.

Alternative forms[edit]


berry (plural berries)

  1. (now chiefly dialectal) A mound; a barrow.

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English bery (a burrow). More at burrow.


berry (plural berries)

  1. (dialectal) A burrow, especially a rabbit's burrow.
  2. An excavation; a military mine.

Etymology 4[edit]

From Middle English beryen, berien, from Old English *berian (found only in past participle ġebered (crushed, kneaded, harassed, oppressed, vexed)), from Proto-Germanic *barjaną (to beat, hit), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰer- (to rip, cut, split, grate). Cognate with Scots berry, barry (to thresh, thrash), German beren (to beat, knead), Icelandic berja (to beat), Latin feriō (strike, hit, verb).


berry (third-person singular simple present berries, present participle berrying, simple past and past participle berried)

  1. (transitive) To beat; give a beating to; thrash.
  2. (transitive) To thresh (grain).