Definitions

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

  • n. Any of various coniferous evergreen trees of the genus Tsuga of North America and eastern Asia, having small cones and short flat leaves with two white bands underneath.
  • n. The wood of such trees, used as a source of lumber, wood pulp, and tannic acid.
  • n. Any of several poisonous plants of the genera Conium and Cicuta, such as the poison hemlock.
  • n. A poison obtained from the poison hemlock.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of several poisonous umbelliferous plants, of the genera Conium (Conium maculatum and Conium chaerophylloides) and Cicuta.
  • n. The poison obtained from these plants.
  • n. Any of several coniferous trees, of the genus Tsuga, that grow in North America; the wood of such trees.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The name of several poisonous umbelliferous herbs having finely cut leaves and small white flowers, as the Cicuta maculata, Cicuta bulbifera, and Cicuta virosa, and the Conium maculatum. See conium.
  • n. An evergreen tree common in North America (Abies Canadensis or Tsuga Canadensis); hemlock spruce.
  • n. The wood or timber of the hemlock tree.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A poisonous plant, Conium maculatum, of the natural order Umbelliferæ.
  • n. The hemlock-spruce.

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

  • n. an evergreen tree
  • n. poisonous drug derived from an Eurasian plant of the genus Conium
  • n. large branching biennial herb native to Eurasia and Africa and adventive in North America having large fernlike leaves and white flowers; usually found in damp habitats; all parts extremely poisonous
  • n. soft coarse splintery wood of a hemlock tree especially the western hemlock

Etymologies

Middle English hemlok, poisonous hemlock, from Old English hymlice, hemlic.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English hemlok, hemeluc, from Old English hymlīc, hymlīce ("hemlock, bryony, convulvus"), literally 'hops-like', from hymele ("hop-vine"), from Proto-Germanic *humalaz, *humalōn, from Sarmato-Scythian *haumala, diminutive of *hauma (“ephedra; juice”), from Proto-Indo-Iranian *sauma from Proto-Indo-European *seue- (“to suck; juice”). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • This kind of hemlock is also abundant along the coast of British Columbia and in the Selkirk Mountains along the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

    The Forest Wealth of Canada

  • I think the hemlock is taking affect on Bill already.

    Puff This!

  • He has special ordered hemlock from a lumber yard 100 miles away.

    Bill Heavey's Deer Diary: Come Hell or Home Improvement

  • The usual verdure of the hemlock is very dark and glossy, lying in double rows flat upon the branches.

    Rural Hours

  • Approaching it from this side you pass through a dense bryanthus-fringed grove of mountain hemlock, catching glimpses now and then of the colossal dome towering to an immense height above the dark evergreens; and when at last you have made your way across woods, wading through azalea and ledum thickets, you step abruptly out of the tree shadows and mossy leafy softness upon a bare porphyry pavement, and behold the dome unveiled in all its grandeur.

    The Yosemite National Park

  • An ingenious murderess decides to soak the blotter on her husband’s desk in hemlock, so he will be gradually poisoned as the hemlock leaches out and into his hands whenever he works late into the night. hemlock/Shakespeare

    May 2008

  • The leaf of the hemlock is the only one that has a distinct leaf-stalk.

    Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Nature Study

  • Range: The hemlock is a northern tree, growing in Canada and the United

    Studies of Trees

  • Palliser's exploring party, mentions in his report that on the eastern side of the Rockies, in the upper valley of the North Saskatchewan, the bark of western hemlock, which is abundant, is very thick, attaining very often a thickness of four inches, and very rich in tannin.

    The Forest Wealth of Canada

  • Europe, or only in infinitely greater splendour and perfection of growth; the species called the hemlock is, I think, second to the cedar only, in magnificence.

    Domestic Manners of the Americans

Comments

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  • Here's a paper discussing whether it's probable that hemlock really was the poison that killed Socrates, in light of the standard objection that the symptoms described by Plato seem not to fit. Apparently the word 'hemlock' has quite a chequered history:

    Most ancient writers seem to have known very well which herb they were talking about when they spoke of hemlock... Yet as time passed, the identity of the Athenian plant grew less certain... and with the translation of Greek kôneion into Latin cicuta and then into English 'hemlock,' the name took on a more or less generic meaning.

    In English, 'hemlock' refers not only to poison hemlock, but to water hemlock, hemlock water dropwort, lesser hemlock (fool’s parsley), and other herbs as well... Through the centuries Latin cicuta became virtually an English word, a synonym for all types of hemlock. At the same time it acquired a somewhat more scientific veneer, for botanical works were written in Latin all the way through the eighteenth century. With no agreed upon system of plant names, each botanist not only used the names however he wished but invented more of his own. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the confusion of the hemlocks was enormous, with literally dozens of different plants assigned various versions of the names cicuta and cicutaria, in scores of botanical works. No one could keep up with it anymore.

    Linnaeus brought some order to the world of plants with his great scheme of plant classification, but paradoxically, when it came to the confusion of the hemlocks, he seems to have made matters even worse. For he separated Greek kôneion and Latin cicuta, assigning the name Conium to poison hemlock and Cicuta to water hemlock... But the Greek and Latin terms had travelled together through the ages, and they could not so readily be divorced, whether in popular language or in general medical discussions.

    February 23, 2008