AskDefine | Define shamrock

Dictionary Definition



1 creeping European clover having white to pink flowers and bright green leaves; naturalized in United States; widely grown for forage [syn: white clover, dutch clover, Trifolium repens]
2 Eurasian plant with heart-shaped trifoliate leaves and white pink- or purple-veined flowers [syn: common wood sorrel, cuckoo bread, Oxalis acetosella]
3 clover native to Ireland with yellowish flowers; often considered the true or original shamrock [syn: hop clover, lesser yellow trefoil, Trifolium dubium]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any of several small plants, forms of clover, with trefoil leaves, especially Trifolium repens; an unofficial symbol of Ireland

Extensive Definition

The shamrock, a symbol of Ireland and a registered trademark of the Republic of Ireland, is a three-leafed old white clover, sometimes of the variety Trifolium repens (a white clover, known in Irish as seamair bhán) but today usually Trifolium dubium (a lesser clover, Irish: seamair bhuí).
The diminutive version of the Irish word for "clover" ("seamair") is "seamróg", which was anglicised as "shamrock", representing a close approximation of the original Irish pronunciation. However, other three-leafed plants — such as black medic (Medicago lupulina), red clover (Trifolium pratense), and Common wood sorrel (genus Oxalis) — are sometimes designated as shamrocks. The shamrock was traditionally used for its medical properties and was a popular motif in Victorian times. It is also a common way to represent St. Patrick's Day. Shamrocks are said to bring good luck.

Badge of Ireland

The shamrock is also informally used as a badge for sports teams, state organisations, and troops abroad from Ireland: The IRFU, Shamrock Rovers FC, Panathinaikos FC, Aer Lingus, IDA Ireland, University College Dublin, University of Notre Dame, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Fáilte Ireland use it as part of their identity, but it should be noted that according to the Constitution, the Gaelic or Celtic harp (or often called "Brian Boru's Harp"), is the primary symbol for Ireland, appearing on postage stamps, government insignia, armed forces insignia and the coat of arms of the President, or Uactaran. It is registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization as a symbol of Ireland. According to what the Oxford English Dictionary calls "a late tradition" (first recorded in 1726), the plant was used by Saint Patrick to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. The posthumous timing of this legend (coming 1200 years after his death), and the lack of supporting evidence found in St. Patrick's writings have caused some to question its authenticity. It has subsequently become an emblem of Ireland, and is a registered trademark of the Irish government along with the official emblem of the Republic of Ireland, the harp. The English word comes from Irish seamróg, meaning young clover.
The shamrock is featured on the passport stamp of Montserrat, many of whose citizens are of Irish descent. In addition, the Shamrock is frequently used as a name and symbol for Irish pubs throughout the world.


The flag of the city of Montreal, Canada has a shamrock in the lower right quadrant. The shamrock represents the Irish population, one of the four major ethnic groups that made up the population of the city in the 19th century when the arms were designed.
The coat of arms on the flag of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation is cradled in a wreath of shamrock.
The Erin Go Bragh flag uses an angelic Cláirseach, a medieval harp in Ireland, cradled in a wreath of clover. A very symbolic flag of Irish nationalism, it is often seen on St. Patrick's Day, usually displayed during the parades.

Boat Names

  • Shamrock V was a J Class sloop. Shamrock V was built in 1930 for Sir Thomas Lipton's fifth and last America's Cup challenge. Designed by Nicholson, she was the first British yacht to be built to the new J Class Rule and is the only remaining J to have been built in wood. After launch she was continually upgraded with changes to hull shape and rudder. The rig was also modified to create the most effective racing sail plan but she was no match for the faster US design "Enterprise". It underwent a major refit in 1967.
Dykstra & Partners Naval Architects where responsible for the Refit of Shamrock V in 1999.
  • Shamrock is also the name of a 1971 C&C 35 which has actively raced in the Detroit, Michigan region since 1976. Hull number 37, sail no. 11166. Shamrock is a member of the C&C 35-1 Association of Detroit. Named after L boat # 39
  • Shamrock is also the name of a wooden steam launch on Windermere. Owned by the steam engineer Roger Mallinson who restored her back to working condition in the late seventies and went on to make the engine for the steam yacht Gondola.

The Four-Leaf Clover

The four-leaf clover is often confused with the shamrock. While the four-leaf clover is a symbol of good luck, the three-leafed shamrock is mainly an Irish christian symbol of the Holy Trinity and has a different significance.


  • Nelson, E. Charles; Loughin, Bernard, Shamrock: Botany and History of an Irish Myth: A Biography of the Shamrock in History, Literature, Music and Art. Boethius Press. ISBN 0-86314-199-4. A detailed history, including discussion of the identity of Shamrock.



  • Shamrock is the ATC callsign of the Irish airline Aer Lingus
  • Royal Irish Regiment soldiers wear a sprig of shamrock on St Patrick's Day as it is their emblem. Shamrock are exported to wherever the regiment is stationed throughout the world. Queen Victoria decreed over a hundred years ago that soldiers from Ireland should wear a sprig of shamrock in recognition of fellow Irish soldiers who had fought bravely in the Boer War, a tradition continued by British Army soldiers from both the north and the south of Ireland after partition.
  • The webcomic known as Dr McNinja lets us know of yet another use of shamrocks. While frozen solid, they make excellent shuriken. The first Irish ninjas used these weapons to beat off a band of pirates.
  • During the Russian Civil War a British officer Col. P.J. Woods, of Belfast, established a Karelian Regiment which had a shamrock on an orange field as its regimental badge.
shamrock in Catalan: Shamrock
shamrock in Danish: Shamrock
shamrock in German: Shamrock
shamrock in Spanish: Shamrock
shamrock in Esperanto: Shamrock
shamrock in Italian: Shamrock
shamrock in Latin: Trifolium dubium
shamrock in Dutch: Shamrock
shamrock in Japanese: シャムロック
shamrock in Portuguese: Shamrock
shamrock in Swedish: Shamrock (växt)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

armory, badge, badge of office, badges, baton, blazonry, brassard, button, cap and gown, chain, chain of office, class ring, clover, cockade, collar, cross, decoration, deuce-ace, dress, eagle, emblems, ensigns, fasces, figurehead, fleur-de-lis, hammer and sickle, heraldry, insignia, lapel pin, leash, livery, mace, mantle, markings, medal, mortarboard, old school tie, pin, regalia, ring, rose, school ring, set of three, sigillography, skull and crossbones, sphragistics, staff, swastika, tartan, tercet, ternary, ternion, terzetto, thistle, three, threesome, tie, tierce, trefoil, trey, triad, trialogue, triangle, tricorn, trident, triennium, trihedron, trilogy, trimester, trine, trinity, trinomial, trio, triphthong, triple crown, triple threat, triplet, triplopy, tripod, triptych, trireme, triseme, triskelion, trisul, triumvirate, triunity, trivet, troika, uniform, verge, wand
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