trefoil, which has three leaves



trefoil, which has three leaves;

Original French:  Trefeueil, qui a trois feueilles:

Modern French:  Trefeueil, qui a trois feueilles:

Among the plants named for their forms. The plants in this group also appear in Charles Estienne’s De Latinis et Graecis nominibus…[1], published in Paris in 1544, two years before the first edition of the Le Tiers Livre[2].

1. Estienne, Charles (1504–1564), De Latinis et Graecis nominibus arborum, fruticum, herbarum, piscium & avium liber : ex Aristotele, Theophrasto, Dioscoride, Galeno, Nicandro, Athenaeo, Oppiano, Aeliano, Plinio, Hermolao Barbaro, et Joanne Ruellio : cum Gallica eorum nominum appellatione. Paris: 1544. Bibliothèque nationale de France

2. Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), Le Tiers Livre des faictz et dictz Heroïques du noble Pantagruel: composez par M. François Rabelais docteur en Medicine, & Calloïer des Isles Hieres. L’auteur susdict supplie les Lecteurs benevoles, soy reserver a rire au soixante & dixhuytiesme livre. Paris: Chrestien Wechel, 1546. Gallica


Trifolium pratense

Trifolium pratense
Trifolium pratense

Thomé, Otto Wilhelm (1840–1925), Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz in Wort und Bild für Schule und Haus. Gera, Germany: Untermhaus, 1885. Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz


Folio coronat et trifolium. tria eius genera: minyanthes vocant Graeci, alii asphaltion, maiore folio, quo utuntur coronarii, alterum acuto oxytriphyllon. tertium ex omnibus minutissimum. inter haec nervosi cauliculi quibusdam ut maratho, hippomaratho, myophono. utuntur et ferulis et corymbis hederae, et flore purpureo in alio genere earum silvestribus rosis simili. sed in his quoque colos tantum delectat, odor autem abest. Et cneori duo genera, nigri atque candidi. hoc et odoratum, ramosa ambo. florent post aequinoctium autumnum. totidem et origani in coronamentis species, alterius enim nullum semen, id cui odor est Creticum vocatur.

The leaves of trefoil also are used for chaplets. There are three kinds of it: the first is called by some Greeks minyanthes, by others asphaltion, having a larger leaf than the other kinds, which the garland makers use. The second kind, oxytriphyllon, has a pointed leaf. The third is the smallest of them all. Among these some have a sinewy stem, such as marathum, hippomarathum, myophonum. They use also fennel-giant, the clusters of the ivy and a red flower classified in another kind of the ivies and resembles the wild rose. But in these too it is only the colour that pleases, as they have no perfume. There are also two kinds of cneorum, a dark and a white. The latter has perfume, and both are branchy. They blossom after the autumnal equinox. There are also two kinds of wild marjoram used for chaplets, one having no seed, and the other, which has perfume, being called Cretan.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 6: Books 20–23. William Henry Samuel Jones (1876–1963), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1951. 21.30. Loeb Classical Library


Pliny xxi. 9, § 30.

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. Internet Archive


Τρίφυλλον, trifolium, allusion aux feuilles, composée de trois folioles, de la plante. «Folio coronat et trifolium», dit Pline, XXI, 30, qui en décrit trois espèces: 1° minyanthès ou asphaltion, qui serait pour Fée Psoralea bituminosa, L. (à ne pas confondre avec le ményanthe de Theophraste (IV, II), qui est le trèfle d’eau, Menyanthes trifoliata, L.). 2° Oxytriphyllon. 3° Minutissimum.
Il est probable que Rabelais vise ice le trefeuil (treuffle), notre trèfle fourrager, du G. Trifolium qui comprend de nombreuses espèces. (Paul Delaunay)

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 357. Internet Archive

Les aultres de leurs formes

Encore une fois, tout cela se retrouve dans le petit livre de Charles Estienne, De latinis nominibus.

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael Andrew Screech (1926-2018), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.


trefoil. Forms: trifolie, tryfolye, -foly, -folly, trifoly, treyfoyle, treifoile; traif-, treff-, terf-, treef-, tryfoyle; tri-, tre-, -foil(e, -foyl(e, trey-, (tree-) foile, trefoil, trey-, trayfole, (folde), trifole, trifol, tre-fole [The A-forms appear to be directly adaptation of Latin trifolium, formed on tri- three + folium leaf; the b-forms, from Anglo-French French trifoil (c 1265 in Thomas Wright and Richard Paul Wülcker, Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies (1884) 556/33): compare late Old French trefeuil, -feul (15th century in Godefroy).]

A plant of the genus Trifolium, having triple or trifoliate leaves; a clover: commonly applied to species or varieties other (esp. smaller) than those cultivated under the name of `clover.’

C. 1420 Palladius on husbondrie i. 701 For wonte of gresse, on trefoil let hem byte.

1450 Extracts from a Stockholm medical manuscript. ii. 666 in Anglia XVIII. 323 Of trifolie 3if þou take þe jows.

1552 Richard Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum Trifoyle herbe, trifolium.

1562 William Turner A new herball, the seconde parte ii. 5 Ye lefe [of Fenegreke] is lyke vnto trifoly.

1577 Barnaby Googe, translator Heresbach’s Foure books of husbandry i. 45 The best hearbe for Pasture or Meddowe, is the Trefoyle or Clauer.

1580 John Lyly Euphues and his England (Arb.) 376 As salfe… as sleeping in the grasse Trifole, where… no serpent… dare venture.

1610 Guillim Heraldry iii. x. (1660) 146 The Treefoile is accounted the Husbandmans Almanack, because when it shutteth in the leaves it foretelleth raine.

1657 Samuel Purchas A theatre of politicall flying-insects i. xv. 94 Another kinde of Trifoly with long red blossomes.



Posted 27 January 2013. Modified 26 April 2020.

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