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a small plant with three round green leaves on each stem. The shamrock is the national symbol of Ireland.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word shamrock comes from the Irish word ‘seamróg’ which is a diminutive of ‘seamar’ meaning ‘clover’. It was first recorded in English in the late 16th century. It is not clear exactly which plant is being referred to by this name, with some saying it refers to Trifolium dubium (lesser clover) and others to Trifolium repens (white clover) or other similar plants.


The shamrock is the national symbol of Irleand, as the daffodil is for Wales, the thistle for Scotland and the rose for England. The plant is associated with St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, who is said to have used the three lobes of the leaves to illustrate the concept of the Trinity. This story dates from many centuries later, however, when the shamrock was already strongly associated with Ireland and the Irish. On St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, parades are held in many places around the world, and the dominant green colour worn by participants recalls the colour of the national plant.


” O, the Shamrock, the green, immortal Shamrock! Chosen leaf Of Bard and Chief, Old Erin’s native Shamrock.”
(Thomas Moore)

Related words

daffodil, rose, thistle

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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