Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a pale yellow flower that grows wild in the countryside

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun primrose probably came into English from an Anglo-Norman word ‘primerose’, although it neither is nor resembles a rose. It was first recorded in the early 15th century.


The modest primrose appears in early spring as the snowdrops fade, along with early daffodils and crocuses. It is a kind of primula, as is the cowslip, another early spring flower of the countryside, though both are much less flashy than their cultivated cousins. Just as the primrose is not a rose, the evening primrose is not a primrose, though they both have yellow flowers. Primrose is also a colour, pale yellow like its floral namesake. 22nd March is Mother’s Day in the UK this year; it always falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and three Sundays before Easter. The day was previously known as Mothering Sunday, a day when young people working away from home were given permission to go home and attend their local church with their families. Since the event always fell in spring, the returning children started gathering wild flowers, often primroses, on the way to or from church to give to their mothers. Influenced by the American festival, which is observed in May, this tradition has morphed into a more general occasion for giving cards and gifts to mothers as a sign of appreciation and love. The entry for primrose is one of many in Macmillan Dictionary that are enhanced by images.


“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.”
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Related words

cowslip, primula, evening primrose

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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