Definition of olive in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈäləv/


1A small oval fruit with a hard pit and bitter flesh, green when unripe and brownish black when ripe, used as food and as a source of oil.
Example sentences
  • Serve as a starter or party opener with dishes of green and black olives, gherkins, a dip with potato chips and a glass of chilled dry Muscat.
  • Add grilled cherry tomatoes, stoned black olives, cavello nero and some fresh basil leaves.
  • To top it all off, dust with sliced black olives and green onions.
2 (also olive tree) The widely cultivated evergreen tree that yields the olive, native to warm regions of the Old World.
  • Olea europaea, family Oleaceae (the olive family). This family also includes the ash, lilac, jasmine, and privet.
Example sentences
  • The olive is an evergreen with foliage of a distinctive silvery-green.
  • Instead they can look forward to suntans, palm trees, olive groves, melanoma and malaria.
  • Garlic is grown in the region and olives are also prevelant.
2.1Used in names of other trees that are related to the olive, resemble it, or bear similar fruit, e.g., Russian olive.
3 (also olive green) A grayish-green color like that of an unripe olive.
4A metal ring or fitting that is tightened under a threaded nut to form a seal, as in a compression joint.
Example sentences
  • Alternatively, the front bearing assembly could be reversed, with the shaft mounted in the flow straightener hub, and the olive ring and endstone in the inducer hub.
  • The olive seal 25 depends from the underside of the top plate 20.
  • Such olive seals have the advantage of sealing in the inside of the container opening where normally there is to be found an exactly defined sealing surface without damage.
5 (also olive shell) A marine mollusk with a smooth, roughly cylindrical shell that is typically brightly colored.
  • Genus Oliva, family Olividae, class Gastropoda.
Example sentences
  • The blue-winged olive and pale watery populations have suffered similar falls.
  • A large tented olive shell is prominently placed in the center of the composition.


1Grayish-green, like an unripe olive: a small figure in olive fatigues
More example sentences
  • They were young men in olive fatigues who had been caught out in South Lebanon, where they should never have been in the first place.
  • The next day the highly decorated young man wore his ‘Easter Monday’ best of unstarched and well-worn olive fatigues.
  • Men's looks harkened back a decade or more, with safari jackets, a '70s-era glen-plaid shirt jacket and an all-American baseball jacket in olive suede.
1.1(Of the complexion) yellowish brown; sallow.
Example sentences
  • The man spoke with an outlandish accent, presumably from the desert, judging from his leathery skin and olive complexion.
  • He had dark chestnut brown hair without a receding hairline, and eyes, and his skin had an almost olive complexion.
  • Here among all the blonde hair and fair skin of the Dramarians, my dark brown curls and olive complexion seemed exotic and exciting.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin oliva, from Greek elaia, from elaion 'oil'.

  • The word olive comes from Greek elaion ‘oil’. To hold out an olive branch is to make an offer of peace and reconciliation. Olive branches as emblems of peace and goodwill feature in both classical mythology and biblical tradition. In ancient Greece olive crowns were presented to winners in the Olympic Games and to worthy civic dignitaries, and brides would wear olive garlands. In the story of Noah and the Ark in the Bible, a dove returns to Noah with an olive leaf (often described as a branch) to indicate that God is no longer angry and that the waters of the flood have begun to recede. See also dove

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ol·ive

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.