General English


  • noun a piece of plant or animal tissue transferred onto another plant or animal and growing there
  • verb to transfer a piece of tissue from one plant or animal to another


  • The joining of a bud or scion of one plant or tree onto a part of a similar plant or tree.
  • Extortion by the unscrupulous leverage of one's position or knowledge.


  • noun the act of transplanting an organ or tissue to replace one which is not functioning or which is diseased
  • verb to take a healthy organ or tissue and transplant it in place of diseased or malfunctioning organ or tissue


  • noun dishonesty, bribery, or peddling influence in public or political life

Origin & History of “graft”

Graft, in its original sense ‘plant part inserted into a living plant’ (the application to skin and other animal tissue is a late 19th-century development), came from its resemblance in shape to a pencil. Greek graphíon meant ‘writing implement, stylus’ (it was a derivative of the verb gráphein ‘write’, source of English graphic). It passed via Latin graphium into Old French as grafe, gradually changing in its precise application with the advance of writing technology. By the time it reached Old French it denoted a ‘pencil’, and it was then that the resemblance to two artificially united plant stems was noted and the metaphor born. English took the word over as graff in the late 14th century (it actually survived in that form into the 19th century), and within a hundred years had added a -t to the end to give modern English graft. Graft ‘corruption’, first recorded in mid 19th-century America, may be the same word, perhaps derived from the notion of a graft as an ‘insertion’, hence ‘something extra, on the side’. Graft ‘hard work’ (19th c.), on the other hand, is probably a different word, perhaps based on the English dialect verb graft ‘dig’, an alteration of grave ‘dig’.