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rose, common name for some members of the Rosaceae, a large family of herbs, shrubs, and trees distributed over most of the earth, and for plants of the genus Rosa, the true roses.

The Rose Family

The family is especially abundant in E Asia, Europe, and North America, where species of almost half of the family's genera are indigenous, especially in the Pacific coastal area. Many of the Rosaceae are thorny, and most are characterized by the presence of stipules on the leaf, by flowers having five sets of parts, by a fleshy fruit, such as a rose hip or an apple, that is derived in large part from a cup-shaped enlargement of the flower stalk, and by the near absence of endosperm in the seed.

Although some groups of these plants are sometimes classed as separate families, most botanists consider them all to be a single family that represents a natural phylogenetic classification, i.e., most or all members have evolved from common ancestors. The largest of the approximately 110 genera (comprising a total of some 3,100 species) are Rubus (including the raspberry, blackberry, dewberry, loganberry, and other types of bramble), Spiraea (including the bridal wreath, meadowsweet, and hardhack), Rosa (the true roses), Crataegus (hawthorn), and Prunus (including the almond, apricot, blackthorn or sloe, cherry, nectarine, peach, and plum).

Economically the rose family is of enormous importance. It provides numerous temperate fruits including (besides species of Rubus and Prunus) the apple, loquat, medlar, pear, quince, and strawberry. The typically fragrant and beautiful flowers make many members of the family prized as ornamentals, e.g., the fruit trees and bushes mentioned and also the antelope brush, Christmasberry, mountain ash, pyracantha, and shadbush. Many genera have species that are native wildflowers of the United States; in addition to many of those above are Agrimonia (agrimony), Potentilla (cinquefoil), and Sanguisorba (burnet), which are also sometimes cultivated.

The True Roses

The most popular ornamentals of the family, and among the most esteemed of all cultivated plants, are the true roses. Rosa occurs indigenously in the north temperate zone and in tropical mountain areas, usually as erect or climbing shrubs with five-petaled fragrant flowers. Sometimes the foliage also is fragrant, as in the European sweetbrier, or eglantine. From many of the wild species have been developed the large number of cultivated varieties and hybrids having single or double blossoms that range in color from white and yellow to many shades of pink and red. Since many species are highly variable and hybridize easily, the classification of Rosa is sometimes difficult, and the wild type of some modern forms is not always known.

The rose has been a favorite flower in many lands since prehistoric times. It appears in the earliest art, poetry, and tradition. It has been used in innumerable ways in decoration. In ancient times it was used medically—Pliny lists 32 remedies made of its petals and leaves. Formerly it was eaten in salads and conserves. It was sacred to Aphrodite and was a favorite flower of the Romans, who spread its culture wherever their armies conquered. Among the old species are the cabbage rose and the damask rose, both native to the Caucasus; the latter especially is cultivated for the perfume oil attar of roses. The famous roses of England include the white rose that was the emblem of the house of York and the red rose of the house of Lancaster in the Wars of the Roses. The rambler rose, frequently grown on trellises and porches, and the tea and hybrid tea roses are of more recent origin, the result of modern rose culture, which really began when the East India Company's ships brought new everblooming or monthly roses from the Orient.

The rose is the emblem of England and the national flower of the United States. It is the official flower of New York state; the wild rose, of Iowa; the prairie rose, of North Dakota; and the American Beauty, of the District of Columbia. Practical uses of roses, besides their importance as a source of perfume, include a delicate-flavored jelly made from the fruits, called rose hips, of some wild species. Thorny rambling roses, such as the Oriental multiflora rose, are much used as hedge and erosion control plants in agriculture, highway landscaping, and wildlife preserves.


Roses are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae.


See the American Rose Annual, issued by the American Rose Society; R. Genders, The Rose: A Complete Handbook (1965); S. M. Gault and P. M. Synge, The Dictionary of Roses in Color (1971).

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rose1 / rōz/ • n. 1. a prickly bush or shrub (genus Rosa) that typically bears red, pink, yellow, or white fragrant flowers, native to north temperate regions. Numerous hybrids and cultivars have been developed and are widely grown as ornamentals. The rose family (Rosaceae) also includes most temperate fruits (apple, plum, peach, cherry, blackberry, strawberry) as well as the hawthorns, rowans, potentillas, and avens. ∎  the flower of such a plant: [as adj.] a rose garden. ∎  used in names of other plants whose flowers resemble roses, e.g., rose of Sharon. ∎  used in similes and comparisons in reference to the rose flower's beauty or its typical rich red color. 2. a thing representing or resembling the flower, in particular: ∎  a stylized representation of the flower in heraldry or decoration, typically with five petals (esp. as a national emblem of England): the Tudor rose. ∎ short for compass rose. ∎  short for rose window. 3. a perforated cap attached to a shower, the spout of a watering can, or the end of a hose to produce a spray. 4. a warm pink or light crimson color. ∎  (usu. roses) used in reference to a rosy complexion: the fresh air will soon put the roses back in her cheeks. • v. [tr.] poetic/lit. make rosy. PHRASES: a bed of rosessee bed. come up roses (of a situation) develop in a very favorable way. rose2 • past of rise.

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rose in allusive or emblematic use, the rose typifies surpassing qualities of beauty, fragrance, and colour; it may also be referred to in contrast or relation to its thorns.

Roses are the emblem of St Teresa of Lisieux, St Elizabeth of Hungary, and the Peruvian St Rose of Lima (1586–1617).
no rose without a thorn proverbial saying, late Middle English, meaning that even the pleasantest circumstances have their drawbacks. The same idea is found earlier in Latin, in the works of the Alexandrian-born Latin poet Claudian (370–c.404) has, ‘a thorn arms roses, bees conceal their honey.’
not the rose but near it not ideal but approaching or near this; the earliest version in English is found in an early 19th century translation of the Gulistan by the Persian poet Sadi (c.1213 to c.1291).
Rose Bowl a football stadium at Pasadena, California, used to designate a football match played between rival college teams annually on New Year's Day at the conclusion of the local Tournament of Roses. The Super Bowl is named after this.
a rose by any other name an allusive reference to Shakespeare' Romeo and Juliet (1597), ‘That which we call a Rose, By any other name would smell as sweet.’
rose-coloured spectacles suggesting a view of something that is unduly favourable, optimistic, or idealistic; recorded from the mid 19th century.
rose noble a gold coin current in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, being a variety of the noble with the figure of a rose stamped upon it, and of varying value at different times and places.
rose of Sharon an unidentified flower, translating a Hebrew phrase in the Song of Solomon 2:1, ‘I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.’ (The translators of the Revised Version explain the flower as ‘the autumn crocus’.)
rose-red city the ancient city of Petra, from a poem by the English clergyman John William Burgon (1813–88).
Rose Theatre a theatre in Southwark, London, built in 1587. Many of Shakespeare' plays were performed there, some for the first time. Remains of the theatre, which was demolished c.1605, were uncovered in 1989.
rose window a circular window with mullions or tracery radiating in a form suggestive of a rose.
under the rose in secret, sub rosa.

See also roses.

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In ancient Rome, the rose, the flower of Venus, was the badge of the sacred prostitutes. The rose additionally symbolized silence. Eros, in Greek mythology, presents a rose to the god of silence. Things spoken under the rose or sub rosa were the secrets of Venus' sexual mysteries, later generalized to refer to keeping any secret. The use of red and white roses symbolized the sexually active and virginal goddess respectively and set the stage for the later Christian sexual symbolism possessed by the rose. That symbolism survives today in the predominate use of roses at weddings and as gifts for Valentine's Day.

In Christian Rome it was the custom to bless the rose on a certain Sunday, called Rose Sunday. The custom of blessing the golden rose came into vogue about the eleventh century. The golden rose thus consecrated was given to princes as a mark of the Roman pontiffs' favor. The Christian use of the older rose symbolism achieved its most artistic expression in the rose windows of the medieval cathedrals.

In the East, it was believed that the first rose was generated by a tear of the prophet Mohammed, and it was further believed that on a certain day in the year the rose had a heart of gold.

In the west of Scotland, if a white rose bloomed in autumn it was a token of an early marriage. The red rose, it was said, would not bloom over a grave. If a young girl had several lovers and wished to know which of them would be her husband, she would take a rose leaf for each of her sweethearts, and, naming each leaf after one of her lovers, she would watch them until one after another they sank, and the last to sink would be her future husband.

Rose leaves thrown upon a fire gave good luck. If a rose bush was pruned on St. John's Eve, it would bloom again in the autumn. Superstitions respecting the rose are more numerous in England than in Scotland.

The rose became a prominent symbol in occultism at the beginning of the modern age. It appeared on the family crest of Martin Luther, seemingly the ultimate source of the Rosicrucians ' juxtaposition of the rose and cross. Earlier it had been used in the symbolism of alchemy. Both pagan and Christian folklore cites the rose as a symbol of regeneration and love.


Walker, Barbara. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

Wilkins, Eithne. The Rose-Garden Game. London: Victor Gallancz, 1969.

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ROSE (Heb. וֶרֶד, vered, mishnaic), the genus Rosa. Two species grow wild in Israel, the white rose, Rosa phoenicea, which grows on the banks of rivers, in swamps and woods, and the vered ha-kelev – Rosa canina–which has pink and sometimes white blossoms and grows close to water. These wild roses have five petals and are not particularly beautiful or fragrant. The fragrant rose arrived in Ereẓ Israel from Persia only during the Greco-Persian period. Its Persian name was varda whence its mishnaic name vered (Aramaic varda, Gr. ῥόδον). The rose is not mentioned in the Bible, even though according to tannaitic tradition Jerusalem possessed "a garden of roses [in which fruit trees also grew] that existed from the time of the early prophets" (Ma'as. 2:5; Tosef., Neg. 6:2; bk 82b), though it was otherwise forbidden to plant gardens in Jerusalem. The rose (rodon) is mentioned a number of times in the Greek translation of Ben Sira but, in the Hebrew fragments discovered in the genizah (Ecclus. 39:13; 50:8), the word shoshan ("lily") appears. This substitution of shoshan or shoshannah for vered, even though erroneous (see *Flowers, of the Bible, Lily), already occurs in the Midrash which speaks of "a red shoshannah" (i.e., a rose, since the lily is white) and even mentions a "shoshannah of a vered" (Lev. R. 23:3). The source of this mistaken identification lies chiefly in the explanation of "the shoshannah among the thorns" (Song 2:2), which was understood to refer to the thorns on the stalk of the rose. The red rose is mentioned in the Apocrypha (i En. 82:16; 106:2).

In rabbinic literature, the rose is frequently mentioned: the bridegroom wears a crown of roses (Meg. Ta'an. 327) and idolators decorate their shops with them (Av. Zar. 12b). There is an adage that "youth is like a crown of roses" (Shab. 152a). R. Johanan's beauty was compared to a crown of red roses encircling a silver cup containing pomegranate seeds (bm 84a). A white rose is also mentioned (Git. 68b). A handsome man is called vardina'ah ("roselike," Nid. 19b and cf. Git. 41a). The main use of roses was in the preparation of an aromatic oil made by soaking the petals in olive oil (Shev. 7:6, et al.). It was apparently also customary to soak rose blossoms in water. The Talmud describes a Persian noble's concept of enjoying life as "sitting up to his neck in roses surrounded by naked harlots" (Av. Zar. 65a; Rashi: "sitting in a bath of roses"). Medieval halakhic literature speaks of "rosewater" as a medicament. Jam made from rose petals was a favorite food (Sh. Ar., oḤ 204:11).


Loew, Flora, 3 (1924), 193–211; J. Feliks, Olam ha-ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 238–9; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), index. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 146.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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1. Conventional representation of a flower (e.g. fleuron in the centre of an abacus-face on a Corinthian capital).

2. Circular ornament resembling a patera, used to decorate ceilings, etc., hence ceiling-rose in the centre from which a chandelier or light-fitting is suspended. It is often found ornamented with stylized leaves, and according to its size is termed rosace or rosette.

3. Rosewindow.

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roseappose, arose, Bose, brose, chose, close, compose, diagnose, doze, enclose, expose, foreclose, froze, hose, impose, interpose, juxtapose, Montrose, noes, nose, oppose, plainclothes, pose, propose, prose, rose, suppose, those, transpose, underexpose, uprose •Berlioz • flambeaux • thrombose •bandeaux • bulldoze • fricandeaux •metamorphose • pantyhose • glucose •gallows, Hallowes •tableaux • parclose • Fellows •bedclothes • nightclothes • rouleaux •underclothes • misdiagnose •Ambrose • dextrose • Faeroes •primrose • cornrows • sucrose •Burroughs • tuberose •bateaux, gateaux, plateaux •portmanteaux • fructose

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rose Wild or cultivated flowering shrub of the genus Rosa. Most are native to Asia, several to America, and a few to Europe and nw Africa. The stems are usually thorny, and flowers range in colour from white to yellow, pink, crimson and maroon; many are fragrant. There are c.250 species. Family Rosaceae.

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rose plant and flower of the genus Rosa OE.; rose-shaped figure XIV. OE. rōse, corr. to MDu. rōse (Du. roos), OHG. rōsa (G. rose), ON. rósa; Gmc. — L. rosa, rel. obscurely to synon. Gr. rhódon; reinforced in ME. from (O)F. rose.
Hence rosy (-Y1) XIV (rare before XVI). So rosette XVIII. — (O)F.

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rosé Pink‐coloured wines, either made from red grapes, allowing the skin to remain in the fermentation for only 12–36  hours, or by mixing red and white wines. Known as blush wines in the USA.