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clover, n.

Brit. Hear pronunciation/ˈkləʊvə/
U.S. Hear pronunciation/ˈkloʊvər/
Forms:  Old English clafre, clæfre, clæfra, Middle English clouere, Middle English cleure, Middle English–1600s claver, 1500s– clover. (Also 1500s Scottish clauir, clauyr, 1700s–1800s claver.)(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Etymology: The form clover is very rare before 1600 (one example of clouerec1265), and did not prevail much before 1700; the usual Middle English and 16th cent. form was claver. The earliest Old English glossaries have clabre, clafre; late West Saxon had clæfre feminine. Compare Middle Low German klêver, klâver (masculine), Low German kláver, klêwer, klêber, East Frisian klafer, kläfer, klefer, North Frisian kliawar (masculine), Dutch klaver (feminine), Danish klever, klöver, Norwegian klöver, klyver, Swedish klöfwer masculine. The vowel relations of some of these are not clear; but it appears certain that the earliest English form was cláƀre, cláfre weak feminine < Old Germanic type klaiƀrôn-, apparently a compound having its first element identical with Old High German chlêo, -wes (Middle High German klê -wes, modern German klee) masculine ‘clover’, and its latter part a worn-down form of some unidentified word. The prevalent Middle English claver apparently represents a form clæfre with shortened vowel (compare never < nǽfre), while the current clover represents the Old English cláfre, retained in some dialect, whence it at length spread out and became the standard form.
Claver is the form in B. Googe, Lyte, Gerarde, Cotgrave, Surflet & Markham, Bacon, Coles, Parkinson, Salmon.

 a. The common name of the species of Trefoil ( Trifolium, family Leguminosæ), esp. T. repens and T. pratense, both largely cultivated for fodder.

c1000   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 134/42   Calta, uel trifillon, clæfre.
c1000   Sax. Leechd. I. 172   Þysse wyrte..þe man crision & oðrum naman clæfre nemneð.
a1100   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 323/29   Uiola, clæfre.
a1100   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 408/36   Fetta, clæfra.
?a1400   Morte Arth. 3241   The close..With clauer and clereworte clede euene ouer.
c1450   Alphita (Anecd. Oxon.) 186/2   Trifolium quando simpliciter ponitur, anglice dicitur cleure.
a1522   G. Douglas in tr. Virgil Æneid (1960) xii. Prol. 116   The clavyr, catcluke, and the cammamyld.
1562   W. Turner 2nd Pt. Herball f. 26v   A clauer or threeleued grasse.
1577   B. Googe tr. C. Heresbach Foure Bks. Husbandry i. f. 18v   Great Clauer, Sperie, Chich, and the other pulses.
1636   G. Sandys Paraphr. Psalms (1648) lxv. 108   The Desert with sweet Claver fils.
1652   W. Blith Eng. Improver Improved xxvi. 177   There are so many sorts of Claver, as would fill a volume, I shall only speak of the great Claver, or Trefoyl we fetch from Flaunders.
1682   N. Grew Idea Philos. Hist. Plants 6 in Anat. Plants   All kinds of Trefoyls, as Melilot, Fœnugreek, and the common Clavers themselves.
1699   J. Evelyn Acetaria 19   Clavers..are us'd in Lenten Pottages.
1792   R. Burns in J. Johnson Scots Musical Museum IV. 377   While claver blooms white o'er the lea.
a1616   W. Shakespeare Henry V (1623) v. ii. 49   The euen Meade, that erst brought sweetly forth The freckled Cowslip, Burnet, and greene Clouer .  View more context for this quotation
1622   M. Drayton 2nd Pt. Poly-olbion xxv. 110   Like the Penny grasse, or the pure Clouer.
1697   J. Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics iii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 103   Where Nature shall provide Green Grass and fat'ning Clover for their fare.  View more context for this quotation
a1763   W. Shenstone Wks. Verse & Prose (1764) I. 235   In russet robes of clover deep.
1846   J. Baxter Libr. Pract. Agric. (ed. 4) II. 31   The effect of coal ashes is most remarkable when applied to clovers growing on sands.

c1000—1846(Hide quotations)


 b. With qualifying words, indicating the different species: esp.   clustered clover n. Trifolium glomeratum.  red clover n. (or meadow clover) ( broad clover clover-grass n.), Trifolium pratense, and   white clover n. (or Dutch clover) T. repens. Also alsike clover, T. hybridum; cow clover, T. medium and T. pratense; crimson clover or carnation clover, T. incarnatum; hare's-foot clover, Trifolium arvense; hop clover, T. procumbens; strawberry clover, T. fragiferum; trefoil clover or zig-zag clover, T. medium; yellow clover, T. procumbens and T. minus.

a800   Erfurt Gloss. 250   Calta, rede clabre; 254 Calesta, huitti clabre.
a800   Corpus Gloss. 375   Calta, reade clafre; 377 Calcesta, huite clafre.
c1000   Sax. Leechd. II. 312   read clæfre.
c1000   Sax. Leechd. II. 326   Hwite clæfran wisan.
a1300   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 556/33   Trifolium, i. trifoil, i. wite clouere.
1785   T. Martyn tr. J.-J. Rousseau Lett. Elements Bot. xxv. 370   White Trefoil, commonly called Dutch Clover.
1785   T. Martyn tr. J.-J. Rousseau Lett. Elements Bot. xxv. 370   Purple Trefoil, Honeysuckle Trefoil, or Red Clover.
1858   G. Bentham Handbk. Brit. Flora 168   Clustered Clover. Trifolium glomeratum.
1884   E. P. Roe in Harper's Mag. July 247/1   They began with red-top clover.
1921   H. Guthrie-Smith Tutira xix. 171   Lastly appeared Clustered clover (Trifolium glomeratum).
1960   S. Ary & M. Gregory Oxf. Bk. Wild Flowers 114/2   Clustered Clover... An uncommon annual..with tiny, unstalked purple-pink flower-heads.

a800—1960(Hide quotations)


c. humorously as a term of endearment.

▸ ?a1513   W. Dunbar Poems (1998) I. 107   Quod he: ‘My claver, my curldodie’.

?a1513—?a1513(Hide quotations)


 2. Applied in different localities, with qualifying word prefixed, to many plants of the same order, or with similar characters; as bird's-foot clover, cat's clover, Lotus corniculatus; Calvary clover, Medicago Echinus; heart clover, spotted clover, Medicago maculata; yellow clover, Medicago lupulina; horned clover, snail clover, species of Medicago; Bokhara clover, Melilotus vulgaris; garden clover, Melilotus cærulea; hart's clover, king's clover, plaister clover, Melilotus officinalis; marsh clover, Menyanthes trifoliata; cuckoo's clover, gowk's clover, lady's clover, sour clover, Oxalis acetosella; thousand-leaved clover, Achillea Millefolium; Soola clover or Maltese clover, Hedysarum coronarium. Also in U.S.: bush clover, Lespedeza; prairie clover, Petalostemon; sweet clover, Melilotus.

1548   W. Turner Names of Herbes sig. E.iij   It hath leaues like a clauer and horned cods... Therfore it maye be called in englishe horned Clauer or snail Trifoly.
1548   W. Turner Names of Herbes sig. E.ij   Lotus vrbana..may be named in english gardine Clauer or gardine Trifoly.
1578   H. Lyte tr. R. Dodoens Niewe Herball iv. xxxvii. 496   Turner calleth Lotus vrbana in English, Garden or Sallet Clauer: we may call it sweete Trefoyl, or three leaued grasse.
1600   R. Surflet tr. C. Estienne & J. Liébault Maison Rustique v. xviii. 699   The good husbandman must be carefull to gather and reserue seede of this snaile clauer.
1626   F. Bacon Sylua Syluarum §493   They make it a Peece of the wonder, that Garden Clauer will hide the Stalke, when the Sunne sheweth bright.
1640   J. Parkinson Theatrum Botanicum 720 (Britten & H.)   In some places they call it Hart's Claver, because if it grow where stagges and deere resort, they will greedily feede thereon..In English wee call it generally King's Claver as the chiefest of all other three-leaved grasses.
1785   T. Martyn tr. J.-J. Rousseau Lett. Elements Bot. xxv. 371   We have one variety [of Medicago] very common wild, called Heart-Clover from the form of the leaves, which are also generally spotted.

1548—1785(Hide quotations)


 3. Phrase. to live (or be) in clover : ‘to live luxuriously; clover being extremely delicious and fattening to cattle’ (Johnson).

1710   Brit. Apollo 22–25 Feb.   I liv'd in Clover.
1737   G. Ogle Miser's Feast 5   Well, Laureat, was the day in clover spent?
a1839   W. M. Praed Poems (1864) I. 136   You might have lived your day in clover.
1856   R. A. Vaughan Hours with Mystics (1860) II. viii. ix. 102   He has been sometimes in clover as a travelling tutor, sometimes he has slept and fared hard.

1710—1856(Hide quotations)



 C1. attributive and in other combinations. Also clover-grass n.

  clover-bloom   n.

1842   U.S. Mag. & Democratic Rev. Sept. 276   The sunset's golden walls are seen, With clover bloom and ellow grain.

1842—1842(Hide quotations)


  clover-blossom   n.

1845   H. W. Longfellow Gleam Sunshine vi   The clover-blossoms in the grass.

1845—1845(Hide quotations)


  clover-blow   n.

1867   R. W. Emerson May-day & Other Pieces 16   Columbine and clover-blow.

1867—1867(Hide quotations)


  clover-farm   n.

1847   R. W. Emerson Poems 55   It smells like a clover farm.

1847—1847(Hide quotations)


  clover-field   n.

1831   J. Morton Gloucestershire Hill-farm 16 in Farm-rep.   They are..put to run in a fallow-field, if there is not a pasture or clover-field.
1870   ‘F. Fern’ Ginger-snaps 257   I shall shortly find a clover field where I intend to bury my disgusted nose until October.

1831—1870(Hide quotations)


  clover-flower   n.

1612   M. Drayton Poly-olbion xv. 241   The Crow-flower, and there-by the Clouer-flower they stick.

1612—1612(Hide quotations)


  clover-hay   n.

1748   J. Eliot Ess. Field-husbandry in New-Eng. 17   He that raiseth Clover Hay, need not be afraid of the expence of Seed.
1831   J. Morton Gloucestershire Hill-farm 18 in Farm-rep.   Good rye-grass and clover-hay is best for them.
1843   ‘R. Carlton’ New Purchase I. v. 27   The tea, was a perfect imitation of a decoction of clover hay.
1901   Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 1 Nov. 1/5 (advt.)    Clover Hay. Just received several cars of the Choicest Hay for cows.

1748—1901(Hide quotations)


  clover-head   n.

1847   R. W. Emerson Monadnoc in Wks. (1906) I. 435   With cloverheads the swamp adorn.

1847—1847(Hide quotations)


  clover-hill   n.

1830   Ld. Tennyson Sea-fairies in Poems 150   Thick with white bells the cloverhill swells.

1830—1830(Hide quotations)


  clover-seed   n.


  Clover Club   n. the name of a club in Philadelphia, used to designate a cocktail made from gin, white of egg, lemon or lime juice, and grenadine.

1925   E. Wallace King by Night xlii. 186   Clover Club cocktails, John.
1931   A. Powell Afternoon Men xiv. 147   He..went to the bar and ordered two clover-clubs and a sidecar.

1925—1931(Hide quotations)


  clover-dodder   n. Cuscuta Trifolii.


  clover-eater   n. U.S. (see quot.)

1869   Overland Monthly 3 129   For no particular reason that I am aware of, a Virginian is styled a ‘Clover-eater’.

1869—1869(Hide quotations)


  clover-fern   n. Australian nardoo.

1878   R. B. Smyth Aborigines Victoria I. 209   They seem to have been unacquainted, generally, with the use, as a food, of the clover-fern, Nardoo.

1878—1878(Hide quotations)


  clover-hay worm   n. the larva of a small moth, Asopia costalis, very destructive to clover-hay in North America.


  clover honey   n. that gathered from clover flowers.


  clover-huller   n. a machine for separating clover-seed from the hulls.

1841   in C. Cist Cincinnati in 1841 (advt.)    Agricultural Machinery..including Clover Hullers.
1853   Trans. Mich. Agric. Soc. 4 35   A. O. Holmes,..clover huller.

1841—1853(Hide quotations)


  clover-leaf   n.  (a) a leaf of clover;  (b) a system of intersecting roads from different levels, in form resembling the leaf of clover; frequently attributive.

1933   National Geographic Mag. May 583/1   We thread our way first through the maze of underpasses, overpasses, ‘clover leaves’ and one-way roads that separates traffic at this busy junction point.
1937   Times 13 Apr. p. viii/1   For straight cross-roads where traffic is heavy and the amount of turning traffic considerable, the ‘clover-leaf’ type of bridge system used both in America and Germany would..justify the expense.
1939   Archit. Rev. 86 58   The clover-leaf junction of Grand Central Parkway and Horace Harding Boulevard.
1951   Amer. Speech 26 207/2   In Nebraska..a similar intersection..in which vehicles turn to the right in a nearly complete circle, this to make safely a right angle turn, is termed the cloverleaf.
1957   Listener 26 Sept. 469/1   Their parkways and clover leaves, their elaborate systems of traffic circulation.

1933—1957(Hide quotations)


  clover-leaf sight   n. (see quot.).

a1884   E. H. Knight Pract. Dict. Mech. Suppl. 203/2   Clover leaf sight, a rear gun-sight having side lobes, which slightly resemble two foils of the clover leaf.

a1884—a1884(Hide quotations)


  clover-ley   n. (also clover-lay) (see quots.).

1796   Hull Advertiser 16 July 1/4   The clover-ley wheats have..the advantage of the fallowed.
1805   R. Forsyth Beauties Scotl. I. 258   To plough down clover ley in a pretty rough state as a most advantageous preparation for wheat.
1808   C. Vancouver Gen. View Agric. Devon vii. 144   Sown after potatoes and the clover-lays.
1888   F. T. Elworthy W. Somerset Word-bk.   Clover-lay, a field in which there has been a crop of clover, but which is now ready to be ploughed for some other crop.

1796—1888(Hide quotations)


  clover-sheller   n. = clover-huller n.   above.

1856   Farmer's Mag. Jan. 61   Clover-sheller, with attached dressing apparatus.

1856—1856(Hide quotations)


  clover-sick adj. (of land) that has been too continuously kept under clover and that will no longer grow or support it.

1851   H. Stephens Bk. of Farm (ed. 2) I. 619/2   Such soils as are termed clover-sick.
1872   1st Rep. Vermont State Board Agric. 1871–2 408   The land was what they call ‘clover-sick’.

1851—1872(Hide quotations)


  clover-sickness   n.

1894   Country Gentlemen's Catal. 15/2   The latest..assertion is, that clover sickness is due to the ravages of..the eelworm.
1907   Daily Chron. 15 Feb. 4/6   It was intended to make a grant of £300 to Berkhamsted for the investigation of clover sickness.
1933   Discovery Nov. 350/1   The organisms (both fungus and eelworms) which cause ‘clover sickness’.

1894—1933(Hide quotations)


  clover summer   n. figurative an exceptional time.

1866   A. D. Whitney Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life xi, in Our Young People Nov. 662   It was a ‘clover summer’ for the Josselyns... They must make the most of it.

1866—1866(Hide quotations)


  clover tea   n. (see quot.)

1799   in C. Cist Cincinnati in 1841 (1841) 166   Clover tea, under the name of Pouchong.

1799—1799(Hide quotations)


  clover-thrasher   n. = clover-huller n.   above.


  clover-tree   n. a Tasmanian tree, Goodenia latifolia.

1898   E. E. Morris Austral Eng. 90   Clover-Tree.

1898—1898(Hide quotations)


  clover-weevil   n. a small weevil, Apion apricans, which feeds on the seeds of clover.