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
Etymologytri- + folium, leaf
- French: trèfle
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.
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.
HeraldryThe 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.
TrademarkThe 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.
trefoil in German: Trefoil
trefoil in Swedish: treklöver
trefoil in Vietnamese: Hình ba lá
clover, deuce-ace, leash, set of three, shamrock, tercet, ternary, ternion, terzetto, three, threesome, tierce, 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