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See also: héliotrope


a heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)


From French héliotrope, from Ancient Greek ἡλιοτρόπιον (hēliotrópion), from ἥλιος (hḗlios, sun) + τρέπω (trépō, turn). See also Old English sunnfolgend.



heliotrope (countable and uncountable, plural heliotropes)

Surveying heliotrope (ca.1878): B.A. Colonna collection (NOAA)..
  1. (botany) A plant that turns so that it faces the sun.
    1. (botany) Particularly, a purple-flowered plant of the species Heliotropium arborescens.
      • 1870, Benjamin Disraeli, Lothair
        As they entered now, it seemed a blaze of roses and carnations, though one recognized in a moment the presence of the lily, the heliotrope, and the stock.
  2. A light purple or violet colour.
    heliotrope colour:  
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, page 623:
      "...the face of Dr. Willi Dingkopf, framed by a haircut in violation of more than one law of physics, and a vivid necktie in fuchsia, heliotrope, and duck green..."
  3. The fragrance of heliotrope flowers.
    • 1881, Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
      ... he had always smelt so much more of heliotrope than of gunpowder.
    • 1906, O. Henry, The Furnished Room
      Ransacking the drawers of the dresser he came upon a discarded, tiny, ragged handkerchief. He pressed it to his face. It was racy and insolent with heliotrope; [...]
  4. (mineralogy) A bloodstone (a variety of quartz).
  5. (surveying) An instrument, employed in triangulation, that uses a mirror to reflect sunlight toward another, very distant, surveyor.


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heliotrope (comparative more heliotrope, superlative most heliotrope)

  1. Light purple or violet.
    • 1904, Jerome K. Jerome, Tommy and Co.
      Lady in a heliotrope dress with a lace collar, three flounces on the skirt?
    • 1917, Zane Grey, Wildfire
      And following that was a tortuous passage through a weird region of clay dunes, blue and violet and heliotrope and lavender, all worn smooth by rain and wind.
  2. Keeping one’s face turned toward the sun.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby Dick
      while still as on the night before, slouched Ahab stood fixed within his scuttle; his hid, heliotrope glance anticipatingly gone backward on its dial; sat due eastward for the earliest sun.

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