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common name for members of the Palmae, a large family of chiefly tropical trees, shrubs, and vines. Most species are treelike, characterized by a crown of compound leaves, called fronds, terminating a tall, woody, unbranched stem. The fruits, covered with a tough fleshy, fibrous, or leathery outer layer, usually contain a large amount of endosperm in the seed (stored food).

Although the palms are of limited use in the United States and other temperate areas, their economic importance in the tropical regions can exceed that of the grasses. Members of the family often furnish food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities of life for entire populations; an ancient Hindu song about the Palmyra palm (Borassus flabelliformis) of India enumerates 801 uses for the plant. Among the most important palms providing food and other products are the coconutcoconut,
fruit of the coco palm (Cocos nucifera), a tree widely distributed through tropical regions. The seed is peculiarly adapted to dispersal by water because the large pod holding the nut is buoyant and impervious to moisture.
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, datedate,
name for a palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and for its edible fruit. Probably native to Arabia and North Africa, it has from earliest times been a principal food in many desert and tropical regions.
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, and sagosago
[Malay], edible starch extracted from the pithlike center of several E Asian palms (chiefly Metroxylon sagu) or sometimes of cycads. The starch is an important item in the diet in some parts of E Asia and is exported for use in foods (e.g.
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. Palm sugar (jaggery) is obtained from the sap of several palms, e.g., species of Phoenix, Cocos, Arenga (in India), and Raphia (in Africa). Palm toddy, or wine, is made especially in Africa and Southeast Asia. Cabbage palm is a name applied to several species whose young heads of tender leaves are cooked as vegetables; these include the coconut palm, a royal palm (Roystonea oleracea), and the cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto). The fruit of the betelbetel
, masticatory made from slices of betel palm seeds (called betel nuts) smeared onto a betel pepper leaf together with other aromatic flavorings and lime paste and rolled up.
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 palm provides the world's most-used masticatory. Carnaubacarnauba
, wax obtained from the wax palm, or carnauba (Copernicia cerifera), of Brazil. It is secreted by the leaves, apparently in defense against the hot winds and droughts of its native habitat, and the resultant coating is removed by drying and flailing.
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 wax is obtained from a Brazilian species. Among the important palm fibers are raffiaraffia
or raphia
, fiber obtained from the raffia palm of Madagascar, exported for various uses, such as tying up plants that require support, binding together vegetables to be marketed, and weaving baskets, hats, and mats.
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 and rattanrattan
, name for a number of plants of the genera Calamus, Daemonorops, and Korthalsia climbing palms of tropical Asia, belonging to the family Palmae (palm family).
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. Daemonorops draco yields dragon's blooddragon's blood,
name for a red resin obtained from a number of different plants. It was held by early Greeks, Romans, and Arabs to have medicinal properties; Dioscorides and other early writers described it.
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, a resin. Another palm-fruit product, taguatagua
, fruit of the ivory, or ivory-nut, palms (Phytelephas species), which flourish in tropical America from Paraguay to Panama. The female palms bear large woody, burrlike fruits, each containing several seeds about the size of hen's eggs in P. macrocarpa.
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, is used as a substitute for ivory.

Species native to the United States include the tall royal palm of Florida and Cuba (usually Roystonea regia in Florida) and the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) of the Southwest and Mexico, much planted as an avenue ornamental. The palmetto palmpalmetto palm
or palmetto
[Span.,=little palm], common name for palm trees of the genera Sabal and Serenoa, ranging from the sandy pinelands of the S United States to Colombia.
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 is the characteristic underbrush plant of the SE United States.

The tallest palm is the Quindio wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense), which can reach 200 ft (61 m) in height and is found on cool Andean mountainsides in Colombia and N Peru at elevations of 6,500–10,000 ft (2,000–3,000 m). The largest known plant seed, enclosed in a fruit weighing up to 40 lb (18 kg), is borne by Lodoicea maldivica, a palm of the Seychelles, variously called the Seychelles nut palm, the coco-de-mer, or the double coconut. The talipot palm, Corypha umbraculifera, has leaf blades that may be up to 16 ft (4.9 m) across and the largest compound inflorescence, or flowerhead, in the plant kingdom.

Palm oil is the fat pressed from the fibrous flesh of the fruit of many palms, principally the coconut palm, the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), the peach palm (Bactris gasipaes), the babassu palm (Orbignya species, especially O. phalerata), and other South American species. Commercial palm oils are used for soaps and candles, lubricants, margarine, fuel, feed (chiefly the caked residue remaining after the oil has been expressed), and many other purposes. The total output of palm oil equals that of all other nondrying oils combined. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the main producers of palm oil, the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations has become one of the main causes of deforestation.

The palm family 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 Liliopsida, order Arecales.

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In Jesus' day many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern peoples used the palm branch or palm tree as a symbol. The early Christians adopted these symbols from the cultures that surrounded them and reinterpreted them. In early Christian art the palm branch often represents martyrdom. It may also stand for heaven, peace, and victory. During the Lent and Easter seasons, however, the palm branch calls to mind Palm Sunday and all the events that the day commemorates.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter, which is the sixth and last Sunday of Lent. It constitutes the first day of Holy Week, a week of observances commemorating the last events in Jesus' life. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. According to the Bible crowds gathered to welcome him, hailing him as a prophet, that is, someone who understands and speaks for God. As he rode by, mounted on a donkey, they greeted him with cries of "Hosanna," an exclamation praising God, which means "Save, we pray." Many reverenced him by taking off their own cloaks and throwing them in his path or by cutting green branches for him to ride on (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19). In the account of this event given in the Gospel according to John, people waved palm branches as Jesus rode by (John 12:12-15).

The Ancient Hebrews

The ancient Hebrews considered the palm a beautiful and noble tree, and associated it with joy, fertility, and God's blessing. In ancient times the Jews adopted the custom of carrying palm fronds, woven together with other branches, during the Feast of the Tabernacles. They also built and lived in huts made of palm leaves for the duration of this week-long celebration. During this joyous festival, also called Sukkot, they gave thanks to God for the harvest and rejoiced in their deliverance from exile and slavery.

Peoples of the Ancient Mediterranean and Middle East

The peoples of the ancient Middle East, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Jews, and Assyrians, found many uses for the palm tree. The palm tree not only provided cool shade in the hot Middle Eastern climate, but also furnished food in the form of dates. Over the centuries the peoples of the Middle East discovered how to construct walls and fences with palm branches, weave palm fronds into roof thatching, mats and baskets, and spin the stringy material that grows at the crown of the tree into rope. They fermented palm sap to create an alcoholic beverage and pressed date kernels to obtain oil.

In ancient times the palm was considered beautiful and stately. Egyptian buildings often featured stylized columns modeled on the palm tree. Moreover, the builders of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Phoenician temples embellished their work with the image of the palm tree. According to the Bible, Jewish craftsmen adorned the temple built by King Solomon with carvings of cherubim, flowers, and palm trees (1 Kings 6:29).

The palm served as a spiritual symbol for a number of ancient peoples. The ancient Greeks sometimes used the palm tree as an emblem of the sun god, Apollo. The Greek word for palm, phoenix, tied it closely to the mythological bird believed to have eternal life. Some writers assert that various Middle Eastern peoples, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, considered the palm sacred in some way. Because it was known for its beautiful palm trees, the Greeks and Romans named the land of Phoenicia (which lies mostly in modern Lebanon) after the Greek word for palm. Indeed the ancient Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon minted coins stamped with the image of the palm tree. Numerous ancient Jewish coins also feature palm trees.

The ancient Romans themselves used the palm branch as a symbol of victory. Roman soldiers paraded with palm branches as a way of announcing their military conquests. After the defeat of the Jewish uprising against Rome in 70 A.D., the Romans issued a coin picturing a weeping woman underneath a palm tree.


The early Christians also used the palm branch as a symbol. They borrowed the Roman interpretation of the palm branch as an emblem of victory but added their own twist to this interpretation. For the early Christians the palm branch represented a victory of the spirit rather than a military victory. As such the palm branch quickly became a symbol of martyrdom. It was also used to represent heaven, peace, and hope. In early Christian artwork the image of the palm tree sometimes stood for the Tree of Life and was used as an emblem of Christ (see also Cross; Tree of the Cross).

By the Middle Ages lengthy palm processions were an important feature of Palm Sunday celebrations. In western Europe medieval pilgrims often carried palm branches as symbols of their status as pilgrims, perhaps echoing this seasonal custom.

Further Reading

Becker, Udo. "Palm Tree." In his The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols. New York: Continuum, 1994. Heath, Sidney. The Romance of Symbolism. 1909. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1976. Knapp, Justina. Christian Symbols and How to Use Them. 1935. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1974. Lehner, Ernst, and Johanna Lehner. Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees. 1960. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1990. Murphy, F. X. "Palm." In New Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 10. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. "Palm." In Richard Cavendish, ed. Man, Myth and Magic. Volume 14. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997. "Palm." In Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. Webber, F. R. Church Symbolism. 1938. Second edition, revised. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1992.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002


The flexor or volar surface of the hand.
Any member of the monocotyledonous family Arecaceae; most are trees with a slender, unbranched trunk and a terminal crown of large leaves that are folded between the veins.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


appeared on martyrs’ graves. [Christian Symbolism: Appleton, 73]


sign of triumph. [N. T.: Revelation 7:9]
See: Victory
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the inner part of the hand from the wrist to the base of the fingers
2. a corresponding part in animals, esp apes and monkeys
3. a linear measure based on the breadth or length of a hand, equal to three to four inches or seven to ten inches respectively
4. a hard leather shield worn by sailmakers to protect the palm of the hand
a. the side of the blade of an oar that faces away from the direction of a boat's movement during a stroke
b. the face of the fluke of an anchor
6. a flattened or expanded part of the antlers of certain deer


any treelike plant of the tropical and subtropical monocotyledonous family Arecaceae (formerly Palmae or Palmaceae), usually having a straight unbranched trunk crowned with large pinnate or palmate leaves
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(Palm, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, A manufacturer of smartphones that popularized the handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) market. In 2010, Palm was acquired by HP.

Palm was founded in 1992 by Jeff Hawkins. Its first PDA, the Zoomer, was unsuccessfully marketed by Tandy. However, after Palm was acquired by U.S. Robotics in 1995, its products took off. In 1996, the PalmPilot 1000 and 5000 sold more than 350,000 units by year end. Although the "Pilot" name was later dropped, many referred to all Palm PDAs and even non-Palm PDAs as PalmPilots.

The Palm devices popularized the pen interface and handwriting recognition (first called "Graffiti") that was also licensed by Apple for its own organizer (see Newton).

In 1998, the Palm creators left U.S. Robotics, which by then had merged into 3Com, and founded Handspring. Handspring licensed the Palm OS and introduced the Visor, the first Palm PDA clone.

In 2000, Palm was spun off as a separate company, and in 2002 was divided into independent businesses: palmOne for hardware and PalmSource for software. Later renamed Palm, Inc., palmOne produced PDAs and smartphones. In 2003, Palm acquired the Treo brand from Handspring, which was designed to combine PDA and cellphone, and the Palm product line eventually evolved into smartphones only, including the Pre, Treo and Centro models.

PalmSource was set up to license the Palm OS platform and HotSync technology that synchronizes data between handhelds and PCs. Running on a variety of CPUs from Motorola, Intel, TI and ARM, the Palm OS has been used in more than 40 million handhelds and smartphones worldwide. In 2005, PalmSource became a subsidiary of Japan-based ACCESS CO., LTD., changing its name to ACCESS a year later and licensing the source code back to Palm, Inc. See webOS, PDA and Palm Pre.

The PalmPilot
The PalmPilot popularized the personal digital assistant (PDA), which became ubiquitous but eventually wound up as an application in a smartphone. The rectangle at the bottom is for hand printing. (Image courtesy of palmOne, Inc.)
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
Use two different-color pencils: one to show palm oil production and another to show palm oil export.
The Service Center's program to bring Palm handhelds to the region's elementary schools--dubbed "PAALM," for Panhandle Academic Advancement in Literacy and Math--was initially funded in 2003 through a technology grant from the Texas Education Agency.
Indigenous to every continent except Antarctica, palms grow in arid deserts and brackish or fresh water swamps, in dry mountainous regions and tropical rain forests.
Hence the punctum of the otherwise unremarkable 29 Palms: Guard, Combat Operations Center, 2004: a small mound of earth, marked with a cross, in the middle distance.
But it is the humble palm frond that has captured our imagination and has become a fixture in so many Catholic homes.
Many smaller palms used in garden arrangements can eventually grow tall.
"Besides providing mobility, the Palm IIIx [TM] we chose also provides the sales team with a volume of data they never had before, allowing agents to confirm the client's order and to obtain current information at the time of the sale."
She ditched the extra baggage in favor of a compact Palm Pilot.
Queen and king palms are two other feather palms with single trunks.
At present Pakistan is the biggest importer of palm oil which constitute 24 per cent of Malaysian total exports, whereas Pakistan export to Malaysia are only 0.5 per cent of total exports as compared to imports by Pakistan which is more than eight per cent.
According to a statement by FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa, RPW is one of the world's most invasive pest species as it destroys palm trees by eating them from the inside, and has rapidly spread to more than 60 countries.