General English


  • noun a plant (Bambusa vulgaris) growing mainly in temperate and subtropical regions of China, Japan and Korea


  • Any large tropical woody grass of the genus Bambusa, normally used as a construction material. The leaves and shoots of some species are used in cooking.

Origin & History of “bamboo”

Bamboo appears to come from a Malay word mambu. This was brought back to Europe by the Portuguese explorers, and enjoyed a brief currency in English from the 17th to the 18th century. However, for reasons no one can explain, the initial m of this word became changed to b, and it acquired an s at the end, producing a form found in Latin texts of the time as bambusa. This appears to have passed into English via Dutch bamboes, so the earliest English version of the word was bambos. As so often happens in such cases, the final s was misinterpreted as a plural ending, so it dropped off to give the new ‘singular’ bamboo.