AskDefine | Define trefoil

Dictionary Definition

trefoil

Noun

1 any of several Old World herbs of the genus Medicago having small flowers and trifoliate compound leaves [syn: medic, medick]
2 a plant of the genus Trifolium [syn: clover]
3 an architectural ornament in the form of three arcs arranged in a circle

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

tri- + folium, leaf

Noun

trefoil
  1. Any of several plants of the pea family, having compound, trifoliate leaves; especially one of the genus Trifolium.
  2. A symbol having the shape of such leaves, especially when used as an architectural ornament.

Translations

plant

Extensive Definition

Trefoil (from Latin trifolium, "three-leaved plant", French trèfle, German Dreiblatt and Dreiblattbogen) is a graphic form composed of the outline of three overlapping rings used in architecture and Christian symbolism. The term is also applied to other symbols of three-fold shape.

Architecture

Trefoil is a term in Gothic architecture given to the ornamental foliation or cusping introduced in the heads of window-lights, tracery, panellings, etc., in which the center takes the form of a three-lobed leaf (formed from three partially-overlapping circles). One of the earliest examples is in the plate tracery at Winchester (1222 - 1235). The fourfold version of an architectural trefoil is a quatrefoil.
A trefoil combined with an equilateral triangle was also a moderately common symbol of the Christian Trinity during the late Middle Ages in some parts of Europe. Two forms of this are shown below:
A dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, is sometimes depicted within the outlined form of the trefoil combined with a triangle.

Heraldry

The heraldic trefoil is a stylized clover. It should not be confused with the figure named in French heraldry tiercefeuille, which is a stylized flower with three petals. It differs from the heraldic trefoil in being not slipped. It could be translated as threefoil.

Symbols

Trademark

The green trefoil is registered under international trade-mark conventions as a symbol of Ireland. Shamrocks do not appear on Irish coins, bank-notes or postage stamps, as a rule.

Other meanings

External links

References

trefoil in German: Trefoil
trefoil in Swedish: treklöver
trefoil in Vietnamese: Hình ba lá

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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