Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a long thin vegetable that tastes similar to an onion and is white at one end with green leaves at the other

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun leek is a very ancient one, being first recorded in Old English. It is related to similar words in other Germanic languages.


Sunday was St David’s Day, the national day of Wales. We have written about the Welsh national flower, the daffodil, in this column before, so it’s time to consider the vegetable that is also a symbol of Welsh identity, the ancient and  versatile leek. Leeks are alliums, and related to onions, shallots, garlic and chives. The leek rivals the daffodil as a symbol of Wales, and on occasions when the national team is playing it is common to see fans carrying or wearing leeks, and even dressed as one. Although the association between Wales and leeks is strong, its origins are shrouded in mystery. Welsh soldiers are said to have gone into battle with leeks pinned to their helmets. This connection between Welsh soldiers and leeks is recorded in the works of Shakespeare, who has King Henry V tell the Welshman Fluellen that as a good Welshman he wears a leek himself on St David’s Day. Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty and the grandfather of Elizabeth I, during whose reign the play was written, was Welsh; complimentary allusions to Welshness in the plays may have been designed to flatter the monarch.


“Fluellen: I do believe your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy’s day.
King Henry V: I wear it for a memorable honour; For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.”
(Shakespeare, Henry V)

Related words

garlic, onion, spring onion

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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