olive branch

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A stained-glass window of the parish church of Saints Dionysius and Sebastian in Kruft, Mayen-Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, featuring a dove with an olive branch in its beak

The olive branch has been regarded as a symbol of peace since Ancient Greek times. For example, in Virgil’s Aeneid (written between 29 and 19 B.C.E.), Aeneas holds an olive branch and declares that it bears the following message: “The Trojans and their Chief / Bring holy peace; and beg the King’s relief.”[1] The symbolism was strengthened by the reference in Genesis 8:11 of the Bible to Noah sending out a dove from the Ark which returns bearing an olive leaf in its beak, thus showing that the Great Flood is receding.



olive branch (plural olive branches)

  1. A branch of an olive tree offered as an emblem of peace.
    • 1974 November 13, Yasser Arafat, “Agenda Item 108: Question of Palestine”, in United Nations General Assembly Twenty-ninth Session Official Records: 2282nd Plenary Meeting[1], A/PV.2282 and Corr.1, archived from the original on 19 June 2017, paragraphs 81–83:
      I appeal to you to enable our people to establish national independent sovereignty over its own land. / Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. / War flares up in Palestine, and yet it is in Palestine that peace will be born.
  2. (figuratively) Any symbol of peace, or a peace offering to an adversary to show goodwill and in the hope of securing peace.
    • 2007 April 1, Ned Temko; Mark Townsend; Jason Burke, “Iran snubs UK olive branch: George Bush denounces capture and calls for hostages to be freed”, in The Observer[2], London, archived from the original on 3 October 2014:
      His [George W. Bush's] remarks came after Britain offered a diplomatic olive branch to Iran earlier in the day to try to secure an early release of the prisoners.
    • 2017 March 1, Anthony Zurcher, “Trump addresses Congress: A kinder, gentler president”, in BBC News[3], archived from the original on 5 June 2017:
      On immigration in particular, the change of tone was jarring, even from within the speech itself. Amidst warning of the threats posed by illegal immigration to jobs and safety, the president [Donald Trump] seemingly extended an olive branch to his opponents.
  3. Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: A branch of an olive tree.



olive branch (third-person singular simple present olive branches, present participle olive branching, simple past and past participle olive branched)

  1. Alternative form of olive-branch
    • 1986, The Bulletin - Volume 108, page 28:
      There's no olive branching. You see I know these people backwards, the agony and the problems we had with those fellows is unbelievable," he says.
    • 1998, The Air Line Employee - Volumes 44-46, page 7:
      "Presumably, Carty could make this an occasion for olive branching here," Mr. Hopkins said.
    • 2005, Vera Kaikobad, The 12 Moon Signs in Love:
      Fire signs also have fiery tempers but traditionally, their hearts can 'olive branch' their way through most problems.


  1. ^ Virgil; [John] Dryden, transl. (1697), “The Eighth Book of the Æneis”, in The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. Translated into English Verse, London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, at the Judges Head in Fleetstreet, near the Inner-Temple-Gate, OCLC 839376905, pages 438–439:
    High on the Stern, Æneas took his Stand, / And held a Branch of Olive in his Hand; / While thus he ſpoke. The Phrygians Arms you ſee; / Expell'd from Troy, provok'd in Italy / By Latian Foes, with War unjuſtly made: / At firſt affianc'd, and at last betray'd. / This Meſſage bear: The Trojans and their Chief / Bring holy Peace, and beg the King's Relief.

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