a. A chiefly Mediterranean perennial herb (Melissa officinalis) in the mint family, grown for its lemon-scented foliage, which is used as a seasoning or for tea. Also called lemon balm.
b. Any of several related plants in the mint family, such as the bee balm and the horse balm.
2. Any of various aromatic resins exuded from several trees and shrubs, especially the balm of Gilead (Commiphora) and related plants in the family Burseraceae.
3. An aromatic salve or oil.
4. A pleasing aromatic fragrance.
5. A soothing, healing, or comforting agent or quality.
[Middle English baume, balsam, from Old French basme, from Latin balsamum; see BALSAM.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.