a. Any of several aromatic resins, such as balsam of Peru and balsam of Tolu, that contain considerable amounts of benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, or both, or their esters.
b. Any of several other fragrant plant resins, such as Canada balsam.
c. A similar substance, especially a fragrant ointment used as medication; a balm.
2. Any of various trees, especially the balsam fir, yielding an aromatic resinous substance.
3. See impatiens.
[Latin balsamum, balm of Gilead, from Greek balsamon, of Semitic origin; see bśm in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.