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From Middle English fern, from Old English fearn, from Proto-West Germanic *farn, from Proto-Indo-European *pornóm (“feather, wing; fern, leaf”), from *p(t)erH- (“fern”). Cognate with West Frisian fear, Dutch varen, German Farn, Lithuanian spar̃nas, Avestan 𐬞𐬀𐬭𐬆𐬥𐬀‎ (parəna), Kamkata-viri por, Sanskrit पर्ण (parṇá).


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /fɜːn/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /fɝn/


fern (plural ferns)

  1. Any of a group of some twenty thousand species of vascular plants classified in the division Pteridophyta that lack seeds and reproduce by shedding spores to an alternation of generations.

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