Word of the Day


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a small yellow, white, or purple flower that appears early in spring

Origin and usage

The word crocus was first recorded in English in the late 14th century although it only started to be widely used in the 16th. It comes from the Greek word ‘krokos’ via the Latin ‘crocus’.


The little purple, yellow and white cup-shaped crocus flowers that delight our eyes in early spring are not the source of saffron. Rather it is crocus sativus, an autumn-flowering variety, whose filaments are used to produce the spice that is one of the costliest on earth. Confusingly, there is another plant commonly called the autumn crocus which is a different species altogether. The saffron-producing autumn crocus has been cultivated for thousands of years and is believed to have originated in Iran, where it remains an essential element in the country’s cuisine.


“I wonder if the sap is stirring yet, if wintry birds are dreaming of a mate, if frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun, and crocus fires are kindling one by one.”
(Christina Rossetti)

Related words

amaryllis, daffodil, hyacinth, narcissus, snowdrop

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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