a wild plant with a thick round purple or white flower and leaves with sharp points
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary
Origin and usage
The noun thistle comes from Old English ‘thistil’. It has been in use since the 8th century.
Today is St Andrew’s Day, the festival of Scotland’s patron saint. As the definition above goes on to say, the thistle is often used as the symbol of Scotland: the flower in question is the wild one that the butterfly is perched on in the image at the top of this post, rather than the cultivated variety which illustrates the dictionary entry. Thistle heads produce thousands of tiny seeds attached to a soft fibrous material on which they float away on the breeze; this is known as thistledown. The Scottish flag, known as the saltire, consists of a white diagonal cross on a blue background; you can see it at the entry for Scotland.
“All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.”
“There thistles stretch their prickly arms afar, And to the ragged infant threaten war.”
artichoke, cardoon, teasel
Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.
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