• A hardy evergreen shrub, Ruta graveolens, with small lobed bluish green leaves which have a strong bitter flavour and pungent aroma. Used in small quantities as a garnish and in egg, cheese and fish dishes. The seeds are infused together with lovage and mint in marinades for partridge. It is said to be poisonous in large quantities.

Origin & History of “rue”

Rue ‘regret’ (OE) and rue the plant (14th c.) are distinct words. The former goes back to a prehistoric Germanic source, of uncertain ultimate origins, which meant ‘distress’, and which also produced German reuen and Dutch rouwen. In the early middle English period, when it still meant ‘cause to feel pity’ (a sense which has now died out), a noun ruth ‘pity’ was formed from it, which survives in ruthless (14th c.). And a cognate noun rue once existed too, meaning ‘sorrow, regret’, which also lives on only in the form of a derivative: rueful (13th c.). The plant-name rue comes via Old French rue and Latin rūta from Greek rhūtḗ.