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See also: Berry


Baskets of various berries in the common sense. Only the 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 berġe, from Proto-West Germanic *baʀi, from Proto-Germanic *bazją.[1]

Cognate with Saterland Frisian Bäie, West Flemish beier, German Beere, Icelandic ber, Danish bær.

The slang sense "police car" may come from the lights on the vehicles' roofs.[2]


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 or crustacean.
    • 1877, Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons, Parliamentary Papers - Volume 24, page 7:
      The crabs carry their berries for six months.
    • 1913, Journals and Printed Papers of the Parliament of Tasmania, page 94:
      That is the only restriction existing: not even small fish or fish in berry, and there are no restrictions on soft-shelled fish.
    • 1914, Cape of Good Hope (South Africa). Provincial Council, Minutes and Ordinances - Volume 5, page 3:
      These crawfish are speared by the Kafirs, who bring them in to the village for sale, and who catch anything and everything either female fish in berry, or male fish in soft shell.
    • 1960, Friedrich Simon Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands: Supplement, page 86:
      The corals have the shape of a shrub and are green. Their berries are snow-white under water and soft. As soon as you take them out of the water, they grow hard and red.
    • 1965, Fishery Bulletin of the Fish and Wildlife Service - Volume 65, page 55:
      McCormick (1934) stated that eggs in various stages of development were found in females at the same time that they were in berry, which indicates a long egg-laying season.
  5. (slang, US, African-American) A police car.
  6. (US, slang, dated) A dollar.
    • 1921, Collier's, volume 67, page 365:
      Four rounds and Enright still on his feet and a hundred and fifty thousand berries gone if he stays two more!
Usage notes[edit]

Many fruits commonly regarded as berries, such as strawberries and raspberries, are not berries in the botanical sense, while many fruits which are berries in the botanical sense are not regarded as berries in common parlance, such as bananas and pumpkins.

Coordinate terms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]
  • Japanese: ベリー (berī)
  • Thai: เบอร์รี (bəə-rîi)
  1. ^ Marlies Philippa et al., eds., Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands, A-Z, s.v. “bes” (Amsterdam UP, 3 Dec. 2009) [1].
  2. ^ Jonathon Green (2024) “berry n.1”, in Green’s Dictionary of Slang


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.
    • 1988, Early American Life, page 35:
      Partly because I always itched and prickled in a berry patch I may have been disinclined to nibble as I worked; but largely I think it was because I berried under a master strategist and I wanted to see how well we could coordinate our efforts...
  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-West Germanic *berg, 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-West Germanic *barjan, from Proto-Germanic *barjaną (to beat, hit), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰerH- (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).