henbane (n.)

poisonous Eurasian plant, mid-13c., said to be from hen (n.) + bane (n.) but this may be folk etymology. Brewer says of it, "There is no such [Old English] word as hen-bana, hen murderer, and the notion of the seeds being fatal to poultry arose from misapprehension of the word." Other Old English names for this plant were henbelle and hendwole (see belladonna.) Hanebane is recorded in Old French as the name for the plant, suggesting possible continental origin for the word.

Iusquiamus, henne bane, is mannes bane. [John de Trevisa, "Bartholomeus de Proprietatibus Rerum," 14th century.]

updated on January 24, 2023