Intermediate+ Word of the Day: lush

lush (adjective, noun) /lʌʃ/ LISTEN

Lush is an adjective that, when used to talk about plants or vegetation, means ‘growing in abundance.’ It also means ‘luxurious’ or ‘rich,’ and in UK English slang it is often used as an interjection meaning ‘excellent,’ ‘cool,’ or ‘very impressive.’ In reference to people, it can mean ‘desirable’ or ‘very attractive.’ As a noun and in informal conversation, a lush is someone who drinks alcohol a lot on a regular basis.

Example sentences

  • The forests of Brazil are full of lush vegetation.
  • Geraldine lived in a lush apartment, full of every luxury item you could think of.
  • I like your new car; it's lush!
  • Neil hated visiting his neighbor, as the man was a lush and his house was littered with empty bottles.

In pop culture

Listen to K D Lang singing “World of Love” here. Listen out for the lyric “Lavish and lush.”

Did you know?

The UK slang meaning of lush as ‘cool’ or ‘desirable’ first became very popular in the 1960s, especially among schoolchildren, but it fell out of fashion before being revived in the 1980s. It then fell out of fashion again, before seeing a resurgence around the turn of the 21st century, especially in southern England.

Other forms

lushly (adverb), lushness (noun)

Origin

Lush dates back to the mid-15th century, in the form of the Middle English adjective lusch, which meant ‘slack, lax or flaccid,’ as well as ‘soft or tender’ (these senses are now obsolete). Linguists disagree on the origin. Some believe that it came from the Old English lysc or lesc, meaning ‘slack or limp,’ and can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic laskwaz (weak, false or feeble) and the Proto-Indo-European root ley– (to let or to leave behind). If this is the case, lush is related to the Middle Low German lasch (slack), the Middle High German erleswen (to become weak), the Old Norse lǫskr (weak or feeble), the Gothic lasiws (weak or feeble), the Middle Low German las or lasich (slack, languid or idle), the Low German lusch (loose), and the English words lusk and lazy. Other linguists think it came into English from the Old French lasche (soft, loose or slack,’ as well as ‘negligent or cowardly’) from the verb laschier (to loosen), and can be traced back to the Late Latin laxicare (to become shaky) and the Latin laxare (to loosen) and luxus (loose), ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root sleg– (to be slack or languid). In this theory, lush is related to the Greek legein (to leave off or stop) and lagnein (to lust), the Latin languere (to be faint, weary), the Old Church Slavonic slabu (lax or weak), and the Lithuanian silpnas (weak), as well as English words such as languid, languish, lax, lease, relax, release, relish, slack and sleep. The modern sense of the word, ‘luxuriant’ (referring to plants), dates back to around the year 1600, and was first used by William Shakespeare. The noun dates back to the late 18th century. It originally meant ‘liquor,’ and though its origin is uncertain, many linguists think it evolved from a humorous use of the adjective (others think it may be unrelated, and came from a word in Romany). The sense shifted to ‘drunkard’ in the late 19th century. Though it’s no longer used, lush was also a verb in the early to mid-19th century, and meant ‘to drink a lot.’

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