a. A tropical American tree (Ochroma pyramidale) having soft wood that is very light in weight and is used as a substitute for cork in insulation, floats, and crafts such as model airplanes.
b. The wood of this tree. Also called corkwood.
2. A raft consisting of a frame fastened to buoyant cylinders of wood or metal.
[Spanish, raft, balsa tree (used to make rafts), from Old Spanish, raft, probably of pre-Roman Iberian origin.]
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.