AskDefine | Define bough

Dictionary Definition

bough n : any of the larger branches of a tree

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /baʊ/


  1. A firm branch of a tree.
    When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall

Derived terms

Cut not the bough that you are standing upon.


tree branch

Extensive Definition

A branch (American English: /ˈbɹʷæntʃ/, British English: /ˈbɹɑːntʃ/) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not part of the central trunk of a tree (or sometimes bush). Large branches are known as boughs and small branches are known as twigs.
While branches can be nearly horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, the majority of trees have upwardly diagonal branches.
The term "twig" often refers to a terminal branch, while "bough" refers only to branches coming directly from the trunk.


Because of the enormous quantity of branches in the world, there are a variety of names in English alone for them. In general however, unspecific words for a branch (such as rise and rame) have been replaced by the word branch itself.

Specific terms

A bough can also be called a limb or arm, and though these are arguably metaphors, both are widely accepted synonyms for bough.
A twig is frequently referred to as a sprig as well, especially when it has been plucked. Other words for twig include branchlet, spray, and surcle, as well as the technical terms surculus and ramulus.
Branches found under larger branches can be called underbranches.
Some branches from specific trees have their own names, such as osiers and withes or withies, which come from willows. Often trees have certain words which, in English, are naturally collocated, such as holly and mistletoe, which usually employ the phrase "sprig of" (as in, a "sprig of mistletoe"). Similarly, the branch of a cherry tree is generally referred to as a "cherry branch", while other such formations (i.e., "acacia branch" or "orange branch") carry no such alliance. A good example of this versatility is oak, which could be referred to as variously an "oak branch", an "oaken branch", a "branch of oak", or the "branch of an oak [tree]".
Once a branch has been cut or in any other way removed from its source, it is most commonly referred to as a stick, and a stick employed for some purpose (such as walking, spanking, or beating) is often called a rod. Thin, flexible sticks are called switches, wands, shrags, or vimina (singular vimen).

History and etymology

In Old English there are numerous words for branch, including seten, stofn, telgor, and hrīs. There are also numerous descriptive words, such as blēd (that is, something that has bled, or "bloomed", out), bōgincel (literally "little bough"), ōwæstm (literally "on growth"), and tūdornes (literally "offspringing"). Numerous other words for twigs and boughs abound, including tān, which still surves as the "-toe" in mistletoe.



bough in Danish: Gren (plantedel)
bough in German: Ast
bough in Spanish: rama
bough in Esperanto: Branĉo
bough in Ido: Brancho
bough in Italian: Ramo
bough in Dutch: Tak (plant)
bough in Japanese: 分枝 (生物学)
bough in Norwegian Nynorsk: Grein
bough in Polish: Gałąź
bough in Portuguese: Galho
bough in Quechua: K'allma
bough in Russian: Ветвь
bough in Simple English: Branch
bough in Thai: ตาก (แก้ความกำกวม)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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