AskDefine | Define thistle

Dictionary Definition

thistle n : any of numerous plants of the family Compositae and especially of the genera Carduus and Cirsium and Onopordum having prickly-edged leaves

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English þistel



  1. Any of several perennial composite plants, of genera Cirsium, Carduus or Onopordum, having prickly leaves and showy flower heads with prickly bracts.
  2. The national emblem of Scotland.


  • , Genesis 3:18
    Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;



Extensive Definition

This article is about the plant, for other uses see Thistle (disambiguation).
Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the plant family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant - on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation to protect the plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant. Typically, an involucre with a clasping shape of a cup or urn subtends each of a thistle's flowerheads.
The term thistle is sometimes taken to mean exactly those plants in the tribe Cardueae, especially the genera Carduus, Cirsium, and Onopordum. However, plants outside this tribe are sometimes called thistles, and if this is done thistles would form a polyphyletic group.


Genera in the Asteraceae with the word thistle often used in their common names include:
Plants in families other than Asteraceae which are sometimes called thistle include:


In the language of flowers, the thistle (like the burr) is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character as well as of birth, for the wounding or provocation of a thistle yields punishment. For this reason the thistle is the symbol of the Order of the Thistle, a high chivalric order of Scotland.
Another story is that a Viking attacker stepped on one at night and cried out, so alerting the defenders of a Scottish castle. Whatever the justification, the national flower of Scotland is the thistle - specifically Onopordum acanthium, the Scots thistle. It is found in many Scottish symbols and in the names of several Scottish football clubs.

Place names

Carduus is the Latin for a thistle (hence cardoon), and Cardonnacum is the Latin for a place with thistles. This is believed to be the origin of name of the Burgundy village of Chardonnay, Saône-et-Loire, which in turn is thought to be the home of the famous Chardonnay grape variety.

Notes and references

thistle in Danish: Bladhovedtidsel
thistle in Spanish: Cardo
thistle in Esperanto: Kardo
thistle in French: Chardon
thistle in Ido: Kardono
thistle in Hebrew: קוץ
thistle in Italian: Carduus
thistle in Japanese: アザミ
thistle in Polish: Oset
thistle in Portuguese: Cardo
thistle in Russian: Чертополох
thistle in Swedish: Tistlar
thistle in Tonga (Tonga Islands): Longolongoʻuha

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

armory, badge, badge of office, badges, baton, blazonry, bramble, brassard, brier, bristle, burr, button, cactus, cap and gown, catchweed, chain, chain of office, class ring, cleavers, cockade, collar, cross, decoration, dress, eagle, emblems, ensigns, fasces, figurehead, fleur-de-lis, goose grass, hammer and sickle, heraldry, insignia, lapel pin, livery, mace, mantle, markings, medal, mortarboard, needle, nettle, old school tie, pin, pine needle, prickle, quill, regalia, ring, rose, school ring, shamrock, sigillography, skull and crossbones, sphragistics, spicule, spiculum, spike, spikelet, spine, staff, sticker, swastika, tartan, thorn, tie, uniform, verge, wand, yucca
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