AskDefine | Define rue

Dictionary Definition



1 European strong-scented perennial herb with gray-green bitter-tasting leaves; an irritant similar to poison ivy [syn: herb of grace, Ruta graveolens]
2 leaves sometimes used for flavoring fruit or claret cup but should be used with great caution: can cause irritation like poison ivy
3 sadness associated with some wrong done or some disappointment; "he drank to drown his sorrows"; "he wrote a note expressing his regret"; "to his rue, the error cost him the game" [syn: sorrow, regret, ruefulness]
4 (French) a street or road in France v : feel remorse for; feel sorry for; be contrite about [syn: repent, regret]

User Contributed Dictionary



Etymology 1

Old English hrēow, from Germanic. Cognate with Dutch rouw, German Reue; related to Etymology 2, below.

Etymology 2

Old English hrēowan, from Germanic. Cognate with Dutch ruwen, German reuen.


  1. To make (someone) repent of sin or regret some past action.
  2. To make (someone) feel sorrow or pity.
  3. To repent of or regret (some past action or event); to wish a past action undone.
    I rued the day I crossed paths with her.
  4. To feel compassion or pity.
    • Late C14: Madame, reweth upon my peynes smerte — Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘The Franklin's Tale’, Canterbury Tales

Etymology 3

From Old (and modern) French rue, from Latin ruta, from Greek ῥυτή.


  1. Any of various perennial shrubs of the genus Ruta, especially the herb Ruta graveolens, formerly used in medicines.



Etymology 1

Latin ruga


fr-noun f

Etymology 2

Latin ruta


fr-noun f
  1. rue (the plant)

Extensive Definition

Rue (Ruta) is a genus of strongly scented evergreen subshrubs 20-60 cm tall, in the family Rutaceae, native to the Mediterranean region, Macronesia and southwest Asia. Different authors accept between 8-40 species in the genus. The most well-known species is the Common Rue.
The leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate, with a feathery appearance, and green to strongly glaucous blue-green in colour. The flowers are yellow, with 4-5 petals, about 1 cm diameter, and borne in cymes. The fruit is a 4-5 lobed capsule, containing numerous seeds.
It was used extensively in Middle Eastern cuisine in olden days, as well as in many ancient Roman recipes (according to Apicius), but because it is very bitter, it is usually not suitable for most modern tastes. However, it is still used in certain parts of the world, particularly in northern Africa.

Literary references

Rue is mentioned in the Bible, Luke 11.42: "But woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs".
It has also sometimes been called "herb-of-grace" in literary works. It is one of the flowers distributed by the mad Ophelia in William Shakespeare's Hamlet (IV.5):
"There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
O you must wear your rue with a difference..."
It was also planted by the gardener in Shakespeare's Richard II to mark the spot where the Queen wept upon hearing news of Richard's capture (III.4.104-105):
"Here did she fall a tear, here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace."
In a song named Her Ghost in the Fog by the black metal band, Cradle of Filth on their Midian album.
"An inquisitive glance, like the shadows, they cast
On my Love picking rue by the light of the Moon."
Sofia Rotaru, famous Pop-singer, sang the superhit Chervona Ruta in 1971. After her performance, a number of musical bands, film (Chervona Ruta), organisations and companies were named on the territory of the former USSR. The name of the song comes from an old Ukrainian legend Chervona Ruta. the song Chervona Ruta (litterally "red rue") became part of Ukrainian and Russian pop culture with recent rap arrangements.
The progressive metal band Symphony X named a song "Absinthe and Rue" on their first album, Symphony X, and Kathleen Battle, American soprano, has recorded the song cycle "Honey and Rue" written by composer Andre Previn in collaboration with the Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.
Many traditional English folk songs use rue to symbolise regret. Often it is paired with thyme: thyme used to symbolise virginity, and rue the regret supposed to follow its loss.
Rue is considered a national herb of Lithuania and it is the most frequently referred herb in Lithuanian folk songs, as an attribute of young girls, associated with virginity and maidenhood.

Medicinal uses

According to The Oxford Book of Health Foods, extracts from rue have been used to treat eyestrain, sore eyes, and as an insect repellent. Rue has been used internally as an antispasmodic, as a treatment for menstrual problems, as an abortifacient, and as a sedative.


Caution should be taken with using rue topically. When applied to the skin with sun exposure, the oil and leaves can cause blistering. Rue oil can cause severe stomach pain, vomiting and convulsions and may be fatal.

Songs associated with rue

Chervona Ruta (Червона Рута) Red Rue - A song, written by Volodymyr Ivasyuk - a popular Ukrainian poet and composer.

See also

  • Harmal (Peganum harmala), an unrelated plant also known as "Syrian rue"


rue in Spanish: Ruta (género)
rue in French: Rue officinale
rue in German: Weinraute
rue in Dutch: Wijnruit
rue in Latin: Ruta
rue in Lithuanian: Rūta
rue in Portuguese: Ruta
rue in Russian: Рута
rue in Swedish: Vinrutor

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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