apple


noun

  1. the usually round, red or yellow, edible fruit of a small tree, Malus sylvestris, of the rose family.
  2. the tree, cultivated in most temperate regions.
  3. the fruit of any of certain other species of tree of the same genus.
  4. any of these trees.
  5. any of various other similar fruits, or fruitlike products or plants, as the custard apple, love apple, May apple, or oak apple.
  6. anything resembling an apple in size and shape, as a ball, especially a baseball.
  7. Bowling. an ineffectively bowled ball.
  8. Slang. a red capsule containing a barbiturate, especially secobarbital.

noun

  1. a rosaceous tree, Malus sieversii, native to Central Asia but widely cultivated in temperate regions in many varieties, having pink or white fragrant flowers and firm rounded edible fruitsSee also crab apple
  2. the fruit of this tree, having red, yellow, or green skin and crisp whitish flesh
  3. the wood of this tree
  4. any of several unrelated trees that have fruits similar to the apple, such as the custard apple, sugar apple, and May appleSee also love apple, oak apple, thorn apple
  5. apple of one’s eye a person or thing that is very precious or much loved
  6. bad apple or rotten apple a person with a corrupting influence
n.

Old English æppel “apple; any kind of fruit; fruit in general,” from Proto-Germanic *ap(a)laz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch appel, Old Norse eple, Old High German apful, German Apfel), from PIE *ab(e)l “apple” (cf. Gaulish avallo “fruit;” Old Irish ubull, Lithuanian obuolys, Old Church Slavonic jabloko “apple”), but the exact relation and original sense of these is uncertain (cf. melon).

A roted eppel amang þe holen, makeþ rotie þe yzounde. [“Ayenbite of Inwit,” 1340]

In Middle English and as late as 17c., it was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts (e.g. Old English fingeræppla “dates,” literally “finger-apples;” Middle English appel of paradis “banana,” c.1400). Hence its grafting onto the unnamed “fruit of the forbidden tree” in Genesis. Cucumbers, in one Old English work, are eorþæppla, literally “earth-apples” (cf. French pomme de terre “potato,” literally “earth-apple;” see also melon). French pomme is from Latin pomum “apple; fruit” (see Pomona).

As far as the forbidden fruit is concerned, again, the Quran does not mention it explicitly, but according to traditional commentaries it was not an apple, as believed by Christians and Jews, but wheat. [“The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity,” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 2002]

Apple of Discord (c.1400) was thrown into the wedding of Thetis and Peleus by Eris (goddess of chaos and discord), who had not been invited, and inscribed kallisti “To the Prettiest One.” Paris, elected to choose which goddess should have it, gave it to Aphrodite, offending Hera and Athene, with consequences of the Trojan War, etc.

Apple of one’s eye (Old English), symbol of what is most cherished, was the pupil, supposed to be a globular solid body. Apple-polisher “one who curries favor” first attested 1928 in student slang. The image of something that upsets the apple cart is attested from 1788. Road apple “horse dropping” is from 1942.

In addition to the idioms beginning with apple

  • apple a day
  • apple of one’s eye
  • apple polisher
  • apples and oranges

also see:

  • polish the apple
  • rotten apple
  • upset the applecart

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