1. <botany> A genus of perennial plants belonging to the natural order Liliaceae, and having erect much branched stems, and very slender branchlets which are sometimes mistaken for leaves. Asparagus racemosus is a shrubby climbing plant with fragrant flowers. Specifically: The Asparagus officinalis, a species cultivated in gardens.

2. The young and tender shoots of A. Officinalis, which form a valuable and well-known article of food.

This word was formerly pronounced sparrowgrass; but this pronunciation is now confined exclusively to uneducated people.

<zoology> Asparagus beetle, a small beetle (Crioceris asparagi) injurious to asparagus.

Origin: L, fr. Gr,; cf. To swell with sap or juice, and Zend paregha prong, sprout, Pers. Asparag, Lith. Spurgas sprout, Skr. Sphurj to swell. Perh. The Greek borrowed from the Persian. Cf. Sparrowgrass.

(01 Mar 1998)

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