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name for a perennial plant (Isatis tinctoria) of the family Cruciferae (mustardmustard,
common name for the Cruciferae, a large family chiefly of herbs of north temperate regions. The easily distinguished flowers of the Cruciferae have four petals arranged diagonally ("cruciform") and alternating with the four sepals.
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 family) and for a blue dye obtained from its leaves. The plant is believed to be native to S Russia, but was in cultivation (and escaped) throughout Europe in early times. The pigment was obtained by fermentation and oxidation of a colorless glucoside, indican. Indican is also present in the leaves of the unrelated indigoindigo
[Span.; from Lat.,=Indian], important blue dyestuff used in printing inks and for vat dyeing of cotton (see dye). It was anciently produced in India and was known in Egypt, probably c.1600 B.C.
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, the other major blue vegetable dye plant. Although the dye obtained from indigo is superior in vividness of color, fastness, and ease of processing, woad growers and distributors of the Renaissance prohibited the sale of indigo in Europe for more than a century. In 1392 the Saxon town of Erfurt, Germany, had gained enough wealth through the woad trade to establish its own university. By the mid-17th cent., however, woad had been largely replaced by its successor—partly because of the low prices of indigo imports from the New World. Both woad and indigo have been eclipsed by the synthetic aniline dyes perfected in the late 19th cent. Woad was also extensively used for brilliant blue paint pigments. The ancients used it medicinally for ulcers and other ailments, and the early Britons painted their bodies with it. Woad is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Capparales, family Cruciferae.


See J. B. Hurry, The Woad Plant and Its Dye (1930, repr. 1974).



(Isatis), a genus of plants of the family Cruciferae.

Woad is an annual or biennial, less commonly perennial herb with alternate leaves and yellow flowers. The fruit is a monospermous hanging silicle. There are about 60 species of woad in Asia and Europe and 37 species in the USSR growing on flooded meadows, steppes, and dry rocky slopes, primarily in the Caucasus and Middle Asia and less commonly in the steppe zone of the European USSR and in Western and Eastern Siberia. The most common species is Isatis tinctoria, whose leaves yield a dark blue coloring (indigo) used to dye cloth. Its fruits contain 30 percent fatty oil. It was once widely cultivated in Western Europe as a dye plant, but this almost stopped when indigo began to be produced synthetically. Sometimes woad, mainly Isatis emar-ginata, is grown for fodder.


a European plant, Isatis tinctoria, formerly cultivated for its leaves, which yield a blue dye: family Brassicaceae (crucifers)
References in periodicals archive ?
If dyer's woad had not been discovered in time, it could have caused millions of dollars of crop damage and destroyed thousands of acres of wildlife habitat.
Woad said that an initiative by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, to organise a generic promotional campaign, to be funded by EU money and cash from growers in the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK, had "fallen to pieces".
The Dutch industry is undergoing a realignment and may find that it has different priorities," said Woad.
At risk of upsetting the `Tyke' contingent, I'll give you the edited highlights of a letter from another northern reader, who I imagine was evicted from the ivory tower some time ago by Mr Woad and has been sleeping rough in Skelton, Cumbria, ever since.
The No campaign needs to start explaining why the Union can make Scotland better not why independence will be a terrible thing as Scots, mired in a swamp of endless negotiations, wander between our mud huts borrowing cups of woad.
Long before St Augustine brought Christianity to these shores, the Roman vanguard saw mad-looking ancient tattooed Britons, one group with their skins dyed blue with Woad and the other tribe stained red with an iron-based pigment called vitrum, and they were kicking animal-hide prototype footballs about under the supervision of a druidic overseer (a referee).
Twentieth-century boys learned to drive the way previous generations learned to hunt, or fish, or paint their private parts with woad.
Nationally famed in society prints like Tatler as the Derbys' "highly amusing Scouse butler", Mr Mangan is an essential part of the user-friendly Merseyside experience for highfalutin' folk terrified at venturing into this North West frontier estate, where the area's natives reputedly went from dressing in woad to dressing in woad coloured tracky bottoms.
Marauders Alan Torrance and Tam McGarvey meanwhile, who had hit the woad before taking to the water, looked menacing in their war canoe.
Youngsters painted their faces with blue woad and transformed the Sutton Park Visitor Centre into an early English roundhouse.