Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of numerous flowerless, seedless vascular plants having roots, stems, and fronds and reproducing by spores.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of a group of some twenty thousand species of vascular plants classified in the Division Pteridophyta (formerly known by some as Filicophyta) that lacks seeds and reproduces by shedding spores to initiate an alternation of generations.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adv. Long ago.
  • adj. Ancient; old. [Obs.] “Pilgrimages to … ferne halwes.” [saints].
  • n. An order of cryptogamous plants, the Filices, which have their fructification on the back of the fronds or leaves. They are usually found in humid soil, sometimes grow epiphytically on trees, and in tropical climates often attain a gigantic size.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One of a large group of vascular cryptogamous plants, constituting the natural order Filices.
  • Ancient; old; former; past; previous.
  • Distant; remote; far off.
  • Long ago; long before.
  • n. In Australia, Ophioderma pendula.
  • n. The royal fern, Osmunda regalis, which grows in low, wet situations and is thus associated popularly with snakes. See Osmunda.
  • n. In Australia, Grammitis australis, a small species with simple leaves.
  • n. Same as floating-fern. See Ceratopteris.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any of numerous flowerless and seedless vascular plants having true roots from a rhizome and fronds that uncurl upward; reproduce by spores

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English fearn; see per-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old English fearn, from Proto-Germanic *farnan (cf. Dutch varen, German Farn), from Proto-Indo-European *pornóm 'wing, feather' (cf. Lithuanian spar̃nas, Albanian fier 'fern', Avestan parəna, Sanskrit parṇám), from *per- 'feather' (cf. Tocharian B parwa, Old Church Slavonic pero). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • We have had only one fall of snow, and that a light one; but the fern is already lying on the ground, prostrate, as in spring.

    Rural Hours

  • The fern is going to respond to the fertilizer but it isn't going to understand biochemistry no matter how often I explain it.

    Doctor Who...another way to fix JE...

  • (The monkey fern is a favorite even though it is a little creepy.)

    Exotica « Awful Library Books

  • Obviously, I'm repeating myself here, but this fern is worth mentioning again, a second time to point out that it is commercially available exclusively from Edenspace Systems Corporation.

    Archive 2006-03-01

  • Seems it's an area that is richer in fern species than any other part of Mexico.

    Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

  • The groups er, ir, ur (finally or before a consonant) are not intended to be pronounced as in English fern, fir, fur, but rather is English air. eer, oor.

    The Lord of the Rings

  • Knee-deep in fern we stand while the days of the sun-time go;

    The Watchman and Other Poems

  • The Comptonia or sweet-fern is in flower, the brown, catkin-like blossoms are nearly as fragrant as the foliage; it is the only fern we have with woody branches.

    Rural Hours

  • The fern is coming up, its wooly heads just appearing above ground, the broad frond closely rolled within; presently the down will grow darker, and the leaves begin to uncurl.

    Rural Hours

  • Our sweet-fern is a pleasant plant; there is always something very agreeable in a shrub or tree with fragrant foliage; the perfume is rarely sickly, as occasionally happens with flowers; it is almost always grateful and refreshing.

    Rural Hours

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