Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. a flower with red petals and a black centre

2. an artificial poppy that people in the UK wear for Remembrance Day

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun poppy comes from a Latin word ‘papaver’ and has been used in English with various spellings since the 14th century.


The wild poppy Papaver rhoeas, also called the corn poppy, was chosen as the symbol of remembrance following World War I because the flowers grew abundantly on the Flanders battlefields. Poppy seeds can lie dormant for many years only to spring into life when the soil they rest in is disturbed. This flowering of red poppies was observed by John Macrae, a Canadian doctor who had lost a friend at the battle of Ypres in 1915 and was inspired to write a poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in his memory. In 1921 a charity supporting the armed forces, The Royal British Legion, started producing artificial poppies and selling them to raise funds for service people in need. Poppy is used in the Australian phrase ‘tall poppy syndrome‘, which refers to the tendency, not limited to Australia, of people to criticize those who have become successful. The idea is that the tall poppy can be seen above all the others and is therefore the first to be cut down.


“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place”
(John McCrae)

Related words

cornflower, cowslip, daisy, primrose

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment