evergreen bush with fragrant white flowers, c. 1400, from Old French mirtile, from Medieval Latin myrtillus, diminutive of Latin myrtus "myrtle tree," from Greek myrtos "the myrtle, a sprig of myrtle," from same Semitic source as Greek myrrha (see myrrh). In ancient times it was sacred to Venus. The modern word is also applied to similar plants, some unrelated. Earlier Middle English forms were myrt, from Latin, and myrtine, from Medieval Latin myrtinus.
updated on March 28, 2019