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See also: Saffron


saffron (spice): the dried threads from the stigma of Crocus sativus


From Old French safran, from Medieval Latin safranum, from Arabic زَعْفَرَان (zaʿfarān), from Persian *زرپران (*zar-parân, literally with golden leaves).


saffron (countable and uncountable, plural saffrons)

  1. The plant Crocus sativus, a crocus.
    • 2009, D. H. Sanaeinejad, S. N. Hosseini, Regression Models for Saffron Yields in Iran, Daoliang Li, Chunjiang Zhao (editors), Computer and Computing Technologies in Agriculture II, Volume 1, page 510,
      Usually the maximum temperature for October, November and December in the southern parts of Khorassan–the main saffron growing area of the Iran-does not exceed 20°C, while the minimum temperature reaches 0°C.
  2. A spice (seasoning) and colouring agent made from the stigma and part of the style of the plant, sometimes or formerly also used as a dye and insect repellent.
    Synonym: kesar
    • c. 1430 (reprinted 1888), Thomas Austin, ed., Two Fifteenth-century Cookery-books. Harleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430), & Harl. ms. 4016 (ab. 1450), with Extracts from Ashmole ms. 1429, Laud ms. 553, & Douce ms. 55 [Early English Text Society, Original Series; 91], London: N. Trübner & Co. for the Early English Text Society, volume I, OCLC 374760, page 11:
      Soupes dorye. — Take gode almaunde mylke [] caste þher-to Safroun an Salt []
    • 1658, Thomas Muffet, The Theatre of Insects, [1634, Insectorum sive Minimorum Animalium Theatrum], quoted in 2008, Anna Suranyi, The Genius of the English Nation: Travel Writing and National Identity in Early Modern England, page 117-118,
      The Irish and Ireland people (who are frequently troubled with lice, and such as will fly, as they say, in summer) anoint their shirts with saffron, and to very good purpose, to drive away the lice, but after six months they wash their shirts again, putting fresh saffron into the lye.
    • 2002, James A. Duke (editor), CRC Handbook of Medicinal Spices[1], page 129:
      Saffron is not included in American and British pharmacopoeias, but some Indian medical formulae still include it.
    • 2004, Melitta Weiss Adamson, Food in Medieval Times[2], page 15:
      Saffron is the stigma of the crocus flower, which is harvested by hand, dried, and sold either in strands or ground to powder. [] Of all the medieval spices, saffron was the most expensive, which is not surprising given that 70,000 flowers only yield one pound of dried stigmas. In the European cookbooks of the late Middle Ages, nearly all of which which reflect refined upper-class dining, saffron is ubiquitous.
    • 2011, Mathew Attokaran, Natural Food Flavors and Colorants, unnumbered page,
      Saffron is often called the “golden spice.”
  3. An orange-yellow colour, the colour of a lion's pelt.
    Synonym: saffron yellow
    saffron colour:  
    • 1973, Anthony Powell, Temporary Kings[3], page 82:
      These colours might have been expressly designed—by dissonance as much as harmony—for juxtaposition against those pouring down in brilliant rays of light from the Tiepolo; subtle yet penetrating pinks and greys, light blue turning almost to lavender, rich saffrons and cinnamons melting into bronze and gold.
    • 2011, Seth Hunter, The Winds of Folly, unnumbered page,
      The classical shades of Antiquity were the most prevalent, but along with the Venetian reds and Egyptian blues, the saffrons and ochres and indigos, were more delicate hues: of pink and cream and lilac, like shells littered upon the shore.

Usage notes[edit]

The distinction between the plant and spice senses is often blurred.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.



  1. Having an orange-yellow colour.



saffron (third-person singular simple present saffrons, present participle saffroning, simple past and past participle saffroned)

  1. To add saffron to, for taste, colour etc.


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