Share this entry

calamus Line breaks: cala|mus
Pronunciation: /ˈkaləməs/

Definition of calamus in English:

noun (plural calami ˈkaləmʌɪ)

1 another term for sweet flag.
Example sentences
  • The red pen, a calamus, was employed primarily for recording texts up until the 6th century, when the quill, the penna, the feather of a bird or a fowl, gradually replaced it.
  • The first to observe and name the calamus scriptorius (a cavity in the floor of the fourth cerebral ventrical), he called it kalamos because it resembles the carved out groove of a writing pen.
  • But calamus itself, the real thing, has a thick bulby root-stretches out-this way-like the fingers spread.
1.1 (also calamus root) [mass noun] A preparation of the aromatic root of the sweet flag.
Example sentences
  • The major herb in this category is calamus root (vacha).
  • The calamus root is, he continues, ‘most remarkable for its odor and for its medicinal properties.’
  • The speaker's psychological response to the calamus root closely resembles descriptions of hashish intoxication.
2 Zoology The hollow lower part of the shaft of a feather, which lacks barbs; a quill.
Example sentences
  • A complex pattern of feather muscles connects the calami of neighboring feathers.
  • DNA for the two musophagids was obtained from the calamus of a single primary feather.


Late Middle English (denoting a reed or an aromatic plant mentioned in the Bible): from Latin, from Greek kalamos. sense 1 dates from the mid 17th century.

Words that rhyme with calamus

hypothalamus, thalamus

Definition of calamus in:

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.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day whippersnapper
Pronunciation: ˈwɪpəsnapə
a young, inexperienced person considered presumptuous or overconfident...