Definition of hemlock in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhemˌläk/


1A highly poisonous European plant of the parsley family, with a purple-spotted stem, fernlike leaves, small white flowers, and an unpleasant smell.
  • Conium maculatum, family Umbelliferae.
Example sentences
  • They are the tap roots of a plant in the umbelliferae family which includes parsley, cow parsley and hemlock.
  • What a difference a week makes just now, verges frothy with cow parsley and hemlock, hillsides painted yellow with colza.
  • If attacked by parasitic flies that lay eggs in their bodies, they switch to a diet of poisonous hemlocks.
1.1A sedative or poisonous potion obtained from the hemlock plant. Such a potion was said to have been used to poison Socrates.
Example sentences
  • Did anyone ever say, ‘Socrates, hemlock is poison’?
  • Socrates was condemned to death (poisoned by hemlock, so the legend goes) after his ‘Apologia’.
  • Condemned to die, he drank poison hemlock with noble calm and courage.
2 (also hemlock fir or spruce) A coniferous North American tree with dark green foliage that is said to smell like hemlock when crushed, grown chiefly for timber and pulp production, and also grown in Europe as an ornamental.
  • Genus Tsuga, family Pinaceae: several species, in particular eastern hemlock (T. canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (T. caroliniana).
Example sentences
  • Many of the needle evergreens including yew, arborvitae, hemlock, and incense cedar make fine hedges.
  • Evergreen plants, including dwarf conifers such as hemlocks, junipers, pines, and spruces, can form a backbone to anchor the design of a rock garden.
  • Just a few hours from Portland, Ore., or Seattle, you can stroll through the lush foliage of ferns and wildflowers, beneath ancient spruce, hemlock and cedar trees.


Old English hymlice, hemlic, of unknown origin.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: hem·lock

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