a. Any of various deciduous trees or shrubs of the genus Betula, native to the Northern Hemisphere and having unisexual flowers in catkins, alternate, simple, toothed leaves, and bark that often peels in thin papery layers.
b. The hard, close-grained wood of any of these trees, used especially in furniture, interior finishes, and plywood.
2. A rod from a birch, used to administer a whipping.
tr.v. birched, birch·ing, birch·es
To whip with or as if with a birch.
[Middle English, from Old English birce; see bherəg- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)birch
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.