mistletoe

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English *mistelto, alteration (due to the final -n being mistaken for the old plural ending) of *mistelton, from Old English misteltān, mistiltān ‎(mistletoe), from mistel ‎(birdlime, mistletoe, basil) + tān ‎(twig, sprig), equivalent to mistle +‎ tan. Cognate with Danish mistelten, Icelandic mistilteinn. More at mistle.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

mistletoe ‎(plural mistletoes)

  1. Any of several hemiparasitic evergreen plants with white berries that grow in the crowns of oaks, apple trees and other trees.
    • 2014 December 23, Olivia Judson, “The hemiparasite season [print version: Under the hemiparasite, International New York Times, 24–25 December 2014, p. 7]”[1], The New York Times:
      [T]he stickiness [of mistletoe berries] persists through the gut, making it hard to defecate mistletoe seeds with any grace. To deal with this, birds like the silky flycatcher, Phainopepla nitens, that are mistletoe specialists, have evolved a "waggle dance" – also known as butt-wiping behavior – where they clean up by rubbing themselves against twigs. Indeed, the association with bird droppings may even be the origin of the word: Some evidence suggests that "mistletoe" comes from Anglo-Saxon for "dung on a twig."
  2. A sprig of these plants used as a Christmas decoration.
    • 2014 December 23, Olivia Judson, “The hemiparasite season [print version: Under the hemiparasite, International New York Times, 24–25 December 2014, p. 7]”[2], The New York Times:
      Mistletoe. The word conjures winter holidays, office parties, stolen kisses, romance. But appreciation of the plant is no modern thing. Kissing under the mistletoe has been happening for at least 200 years. And some 2,000 years ago, the druids in which is now Britain venerated the plant when it grew on an oak. When they found it, they dressed in white, harvested it with a golden sickle, and sacrificed two white bulls. Or so says that great Roman, Pliny the Elder, in his "Natural History."

Usage notes[edit]

The term mistletoe is used for both Viscum album (European mistletoe) and Phoradendron leucarpum (eastern mistletoe).

Derived terms[edit]

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