Etymology
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saxifrage (n.)

type of plant typically found in cold regions and used medicinally, late 14c., from Old French saxifrage (13c.), from Late Latin saxifraga, name of a kind of herb, from Latin saxifraga herba, literally "a rock-breaking herb," from saxifragus "stonebreaking," from saxum "stone, rock" + frag-, root of frangere "to break" (from PIE root *bhreg- "to break"). Pliny says the plant was so called because it was given to dissolve gallstones, but a more likely explanation is that it was so called because it grows in crevices in rocks. (Latin used different words for "stone" and "gallstone" — saxum and calculus). Related: Saxifragaceous; saxifragal.

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peppermint (n.)

herb native to Europe, naturalized in the U.S., noted for its aromatic, pungent oil, 1690s, from pepper (n.) + mint (n.1). Compare Dutch pepermunt, German Pfeffermünze. As "candy drop flavored with peppermint" by 1829 (peppermint-drop is by 1799).

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panacea (n.)

"universal remedy," 1540s, from Latin panacea, a herb (variously identified) that would heal all illnesses, from Greek panakeia "cure-all," from panakēs "all-healing," from pan- "all" (see pan-) + akos "cure," from iasthai "to heal" (see -iatric). Earlier in English as panace (1510s).

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aroma (n.)

early 13c., "fragrant substance, spice" (a sense now obsolete), from Latin aroma "sweet odor," from Greek aroma "seasoning, a spice or sweet herb," which is of unknown origin. The meaning "fragrance, odor," especially an agreeable one, is from 1814. A hypercorrect plural is aromata. Related: Aromal.

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marjoram (n.)

common plant used as an herb in cookery, late 14c., from Old French majorane (13c., Modern French marjolaine), from Medieval Latin maiorana, a word of uncertain origin, probably ultimately from India (compare Sanskrit maruva- "marjoram"), with form influenced by Latin major "greater."

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pennyroyal (n.)

perennial herb of the mint family, formerly cultivated for medicinal purposes, 1520s, alteration by folk etymology of Anglo-French puliol real; for second element see royal; the first element ultimately is from Latin puleium "thyme," a word of unknown origin. Later also applied to an American plant.

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catnip (n.)

1712, American English, from cat (n.) + nip, which perhaps is a survival of Middle English nept, nepte "catnip," from Anglo French and Old English nepte "catnip," from Latin nepta, name of an aromatic herb. Middle English catmint is attested from mid-13c. So called because cats are fond of it.

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vetch (n.)

climbing herb, late 14c., from Old North French veche, variant of Old French vece, from Latin vicia "vetch," which perhaps is related to vincire "to bind" (compare second element of periwinkle (n.1)), or from PIE root *weik- (2) "to bend, to wind." Dutch wikke, German Wicke are loan-words from Latin vicia.

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gentian (n.)

type of herb, late 14c., genciane, from Old French genciane (13c.) and directly from Latin gentiana, said by Pliny to be named for Gentius, king of ancient Illyria who discovered its properties. This likely is a folk-etymology, but the word may be Illyrian nonetheless, because the suffix -an frequently occurs in Illyrian words.

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foxglove (n.)

Old English foxes glofa, literally "fox's glove." The flower shape is that of the finger of a glove (compare German Fingerhut "foxglove," literally "thimble," the source of digitalis). The reason for fox is lost in the mute past of English herb-lore. Compare Old English plant names foxesfot ("fox's foot") "xiphion;" foxesclate ("fox's bur") "burdock."

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