From Middle English holly, holi, holie, a shortened variation of holin, holyn (> English dialectal hollen, holm), from Old English holeġn, holen (“holly; prince, protector”), from Proto-Germanic *hulisaz (“butcher's broom”), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱol- (“thorn, awn; a kind of thorny plant; prickly”), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱel- (“to cut”). Cognate with Scots holin, hollin, holyn (“holly”), Dutch hulst (“holly”), German Hulst (“holly”), French houx ("holly" < Germanic), Danish hylver (“holly”), Welsh celyn (“holly”), Russian ко́лос (kólos, “ear of wheat”), Albanian kalli (“straw, chaff”), Latin culmus (“stalk, stem”), Sanskrit कटम्ब (kaṭamba, “arrow”), Old Church Slavonic класъ (klasŭ, “ear of grain”).
holly (plural hollies)
- Any of various shrubs or (mostly) small trees, of the genus Ilex, either evergreen or deciduous, used as decoration especially at Christmas.
- The wood from this tree.
- (with a qualifier) Any of several unrelated plant species likened to Ilex because of their prickly, evergreen foliage and/or round, bright-red berries