A southwest Asian perennial herb (Medicago sativa) in the pea family, having compound leaves with three leaflets and clusters of usually blue-violet flowers. It is widely cultivated as a pasture and hay crop.
[Spanish, from Arabic al-faṣfaṣa : al-, the + faṣfaṣa, alfalfa (variant of fiṣfiṣa, ultimately (probably via Coptic p-espesta : p-, masculine sing. definite article + espesta, alfalfa) from Aramaic espestā, from Middle Persian aspast, from Old Iranian aspasti- : *aspa-, horse; see ekwo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + *-sti-, food, fodder; see ed- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]
(click for a larger image)alfalfa
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.