Word of the Day


© Getty Images


a tree or plant that does not lose its leaves in winter

Origin and usage

The first known use of the adjective evergreen was in 1593 when Gabriel Harvey referred to the ‘euer-greene Laurell’; the noun came later, in 1658, when John Evelyn translated a work by the French author Nicolas de Bonnefons, giving it the title ‘A Treatise of Flowers, and Ever-greens. Both these early uses reveal the origin of the word: ‘ever’ meaning ‘always’, plus ‘green’, alluding to the fact that the foliage of these plants does not change colour and drop in the autumn.


Every gardener in temperate climates knows the value of evergreens which give structure and life to the garden when everything else is dead or bare. The practice of bringing some form of evergreen plant or foliage inside during the winter goes back thousands of years: the Romans, for example, used fir trees to decorate their homes for the New Year.  The use of fir trees as Christmas trees probably goes back a thousand years or so, but the idea of bringing a whole tree indoors and decorating it was introduced to Britain by the German wife of George III. The practice became popular only during the reign of Queen Victoria, whose own enthusiasm for the celebration of Christmas was boosted by that of her German husband, Albert. It was in this period that members of the general public started to imitate the holiday customs of the royal family, including that of bringing an evergreen tree indoors, decorating it and placing presents around the base.


Washington is nicknamed “The Evergreen State” because it sounds better than “The Incessant Nagging Drizzle State.
(Dave Barry)

“The only way to judge art is to wait and see if it becomes evergreen.”
(Andrea Bocelli)

Related words

conifer, coniferous, deciduous

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Leave a Comment