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Gold and silver pomanders (sense 2) from Europe[n 1]
A pomander (sense 4) consisting of an orange studded with cloves

From Old French pome d'embre (literally apple of ambergris), from Medieval Latin pōmum ambra:[1] pōmum (fruit) (possibly from *po-emo (picked off)); ambra (amber; ambergris) (probably from ambrosia (food or unguent of the gods), from Ancient Greek ᾰ̓́μβροτος (ámbrotos, divine, immortal; belonging to the gods), from Proto-Indo-European *n̥mr̥tós (immortal)).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɒ.mæn.də/, /ˈpəʊ.mæn.də/, /pəˈmæn.də/, /ˈpɒ.mən.də/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpoʊ.mæn.dɚ/, /poʊˈmæn.dɚ/, /ˈpɑ.mən.dɚ/
  • Hyphenation: pom‧an‧der


pomander (countable and uncountable, plural pomanders)

  1. (countable, uncountable, historical) A mixture of aromatic substances, made into a ball and carried by a person to impart a sweet smell or as a protection against infection. [from late 15th c.]
    • 1605, Christopher Wirtzung, “Of the Nose”, in Iacob Mosan, transl., The General Practise of Physicke: [], London: Impensis Georg[e] Bishop, →OCLC, § 8 (Enfeebled or Lost Smelling), page 102:
      Take red Storar, Nutmegs, Cucubes, Cloues, Nardus ſeed, Lignum Aloes, Indy Spica, and Cinamom, of each one drag. Muſcus and Amber of each one ſcruple, Landanum one ounce, make a Pomander thereof, like as there be many deſcribed in the ſixt part, and is alſo taught how the ſame is to be made.
    • 1607, [attributed to Thomas Tomkis], Lingva: Or The Combat of the Tongue, and the Five Senses for Superiority. A Pleasant Comœdie., London: Printed by G[eorge] Eld, for Simon Waterson, →OCLC, act IV, scene iii:
      Your onely way to make a good pomander, is this. Take an ownce of the pureſt garden mould, clenſed and ſteeped ſeauen daies in change of motherleſſe roſe water, then take the beſt Labdanum, Benioine, both Storaxes, amber greece, and Ciuet, and muſke, incorporate them together, and work them into what form you pleaſe; this, if your breath bee not to valiant, will make you ſmell as ſweete as my Ladies dogge.
    • c. 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Winters Tale”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene iii], page 296, columns 1–2:
      I have ſold all my Tromperie: not a counterfeit Stone, not a Ribbon, Glaſſe, Pomander, Browch, Table-booke, Ballad, Knife, Tape, Gloue, Shooe-tye, Bracelet, Horne-Ring, to keepe my Pack from faſting: []
  2. (countable, historical) A small case in which an aromatic ball was carried.
    • 1872 July, “My Godmother’s Pomander”, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, volume XLV, number CCLXVI, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, publishers, [], →OCLC, page 213, column 1:
      Colonel Johnson was talking to her earnestly, leaning over the card-table. On seeing Miss Harrison's gesture he rose suddenly, and attached to the ribbon of his watch was my godmother's silver pomander.
    • 1940, Katherine Morris Lester, Bess Viola Oerke, “Perfume”, in An Illustrated History of Those Frills and Furbelows of Fashion which have Come to be Known as Accessories of Dress, Peoria, Ill.: The Manual Arts Press, →OCLC, page 157; reprinted as Accessories of Dress: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2004, →ISBN, part I (Accessories Worn on the Head), page 157:
      In well-known portraits of the period the fashionable pomander is much in evidence. In Plate LV, page 547, the Spanish lady holds a jeweled pomander pendant to her girdle. The girdle, pomander, rings, pendant, tiara, and jeweled fur piece are excellent examples of the various kinds of ornament which prevailed during this century.
    • 1994, Mary Spaulding, “Against the Yll Ayres”, in Nurturing Yesterday’s Child: A Portrayal of the Drake Collection of Paediatric History, Toronto, Ont.: Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc., →ISBN, page 193:
      Two very early pomanders were undoubtedly produced for different classes English society: the black, waxy ball moulded around a gold shaft, for the wealthy; the carved nut shell, for a lower class.
  3. (countable) A perforated container filled with pot-pourri for placing in a drawer, wardrobe, room, etc., to provide a sweet smell.
  4. (countable) An apple or orange studded with cloves used for the same purpose.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ From the collection of the Wellcome Library in London, England, UK.


Further reading[edit]