bloom vs blossom

Dalian

Senior Member
Mandarin
Hello~
I'd like to know what's the difference between "bloom" and "blossom". I looked them up in the dictionary, only to find similar definitions.
When used as nouns, both of them mean "flower".
When used as verbs, they mean "produce flowers".
I got really confused...
Any help would be appreciated.

Regards
Dalian
 
  • bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Noun: A bloom is an individual growth from a plant. Blossom is either all the blooms you see on a tree (cherry blossom, for example) or an individual bloom in the tree. So, blossom is associated with trees. In both cases the unopened is called a bud.

    Verb: You should be able to work out the literal meaning of the verbs from the above paragraph. However, they can be used metaphorically. Someone, for example, could blossom or bloom: a skill or ability could suddenly develop. You could also speak about the blossoming or blooming of something.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Another use of bloom is the green stuff you get growing in sluggish water in the summer. These are called algal blooms.
     
    A very interesting explanation. Let us, nonetheless, clarify some aspects of these words. Two days ago when we were walking in a park with my guest and they notice very beautiful floweres, a gentleman asked: "Oh, they are blooming! I have never seen this before!" The meaning is doubtless clear, but is it possible to use "blossom" here in the same meaning?

    Noun: A bloom is an individual growth from a plant. Blossom is either all the blooms you see on a tree (cherry blossom, for example) or an individual bloom in the tree. So, blossom is associated with trees. In both cases the unopened is called a bud.
    What is the difference between "ON a tree" and "IN the tree". Why different prepositions? Why have they been changed? One more thing is vague: you say that a bloom is an an individual growth and then add that a blossom can be an individual bloom in the tree. Too confusing and difficult tom understand....:confused:


    Verb: You should be able to work out the literal meaning of the verbs from the above paragraph.
    Please be so kind as to explain. Many would be grateful.

    Yours
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I think M-W's definitions are useful here, Dmitry: "blossom": 1 a of plants : to put forth flowers : come into bloom :

    Here's "bloom": 1 : to produce or yield blossoms : flower or be in flower :


    Both words mean the same thing. You can use either one with whatever tense makes sense. Just remember that both verbs are intransitive, and you'll have no problems with either one. Remember also that both verbs can be used with any flowering plant. It doesn't matter whether it's a tree or an herb: if it flowers, it can either blossom or bloom.

    Regarding your last question about the preposition to use with the nouns "blossom" or "bloom": I generally say that blossoms are budding out on a tree.


     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English

    Remember also that both verbs can be used with any flowering plant. It doesn't matter whether it's a tree or an herb: if it flowers, it can either blossom or bloom.
    Really? That sounds a little strange to me, I strongly associate trees with blossom and flowers with bloom. Is this just me, or is it a pointer to another case of slightly different usage?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Really? That sounds a little strange to me, I strongly associate trees with blossom and flowers with bloom. Is this just me, or is it a pointer to another case of slightly different usage?
    I'm glad you mentioned this, Cirrus. Along with you, I'm more inclined to use blossom with trees though I don't do so exclusively. As for nouns for flowers on the trees, I usually use "blossom" with fruit trees and indigenous hardwoods, but the minute I see any tree with big tropical flowers, I go right back to "bloom". For some reason, I use "bloom" more when talking about shrubs, though I've heard others use "blossom" for this subject.
     

    Oldy Nuts

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Chile
    Sorry to revive this subject, but in another forum (English-Spanish) there is a participant who insists that the verb "bloom" can only be applied to trees, while the verb to apply in the case of shrubs and smaller plants it to "flower". More clearly perhaps: a rosebush flowers when it is producing flowers (roses), but it cannot bloom or blossom; and an apple tree blooms or blossoms when it's producing flowers, although I'n not sure if he objects to the use of the verb "flower" in this case.

    I have read all the threads I found when i performed a search for "bloom" in this forum, and I couldn't find in any of them conclusive evidence to prove that he is either wrong or right. Is there any caritative and knowledgeable soul willing to clarify this for me?
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Not that I am an expert but bloom could be pretty much any flower in British English. It could also be a description of what happens with yeast in fermentation processes. As for bloom - the Britain in Bloom campaign is principally about flowers rather than trees. Blossom here tends to be used more with trees.
     

    Oldy Nuts

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Chile
    Not that I am an expert but bloom could be pretty much any flower in British English. It could also be a description of what happens with yeast in fermentation processes. As for bloom - the Britain in Bloom campaign is principally about flowers rather than trees. Blossom here tends to be used more with trees.
    Thanks for your quick reply, cirrus. You had already shown that you are in the group of those who think that anything that can put forth flowers of any kind or size "blooms", and is "in bloom" when covered with them, be it the tiniest herb or a most gigantic tree. My question is if the majority of native English speakers thinks the same, or are rather convinced that herbs and small plants that cannot be classified as trees can only "flower", but not "bloom".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Flower, bloom, blossom. They can all three mean the same thing, and they can all mean different things. It depends on the context, and the differences in meaning can be very subtle, especially when including figurative or poetic meanings.

    Tree, shrub. I don't know that there is a clear distinction.

    A nandina bush blooms, but a pine tree does not.

    A flower blooms. When all the flowers on a plant bloom at the same time, the plant is blooming. If only some of the flowers on a plant bloom, I probably would not say the plant is blooming.

    I hope this helps.
     

    Oldy Nuts

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Chile
    Thanks, Forero, it does help in getting me a little closer to the answer to my question.

    Would you say that all flowers, including those of small herbs, bloom? And that when all the flowers of that small herb bloom at the same time, the herb is blooming/in bloom?

    Please remember that I am asking this because a participant in another thread in another forum has been insisting that only trees bloom, while smaller plants flower.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't think this person's take is backed up by usage as captured by dictionaries. Look at this from Collin's. "
    1 [COLOR=#0]a blossom on a flowering plant; a flower [/COLOR]


    2 [COLOR=#0]the state, time, or period when flowers open (esp. in the phrases in bloom, in full bloom) [/COLOR]


    3 [COLOR=#0]open flowers collectively [/COLOR]
    a tree covered with bloom

    4 [COLOR=#0]a healthy, vigorous, or flourishing condition; prime (esp. in the phrase the bloom of youth

    Unless you restrict the meaning of the word to a collective opening of flowers, it is difficult to see how you can say bloom is restricted to trees, quite apart from its roots which proudly shout the word flower.
    [/COLOR]

     

    k-in-sc

    Senior Member
    As verbs, "bloom" and "flower" are more prosaic and "blossom" is more poetic.
    "Bloom" tends to be more for ornamentals. You might say "This tomato plant is blooming/in bloom," but you would be more likely to say it's "flowering."
    Oldy, what's the link to the other thread? I know a little about horticulture and I've never come across any distinction like you mentioned.
     

    Oldy Nuts

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Chile
    Thanks, cirrus and K.

    K, the thread is this one

    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2164361

    and I am afraid that you will have to read at least the first few messages to understand where the problem lies, although the problem begins in message #10, where the use of "bloom" is questioned.

    Incidentally, the "desierto florido" phenomenon is described here

    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desierto_florido

    and it's clear even from the photos that flowers are been produced by small plants, most of them well-know native ones.

    Addition: I liked fenixpollo's suggestion "Desert in bloom" mostly because it sounds nice to my ears and all the flowers open in a very short time of about two weeks.
     
    Last edited:

    k-in-sc

    Senior Member
    I would say "desert in bloom" too. It's pretty standard.
    Evidently the "distinction" is based on someone's interpretation of dictionary entries. I think you can safely disregard it ;)
     

    scrotgrot

    Senior Member
    English - English
    The distinction is very fine, but to me, as a native speaker, blossom is for flowers on trees and bloom is for flowers on other plants. For instance, the tree is blossoming but the flowers are blooming. It might be something to do with the fact that a tree has many flowers but a "flower" like a bluebell only has one per plant, because I'd also say a hedge or bush would blossom.

    Metaphorically, blossom tends to be used a lot more widely, and has the sense of coming to fruition, but to me, the metaphorical sense of bloom has more of an overtone of youth to it too, as similarly connoted by the season of spring.

    Also, note that in (slightly outmoded) British English we have the minced oath blooming for bloody/bleeding!
     

    k-in-sc

    Senior Member
    A lot (if not most) of herbaceous plants have multiple blooms/flowers. I think "blossom" is most closely associated with fruit trees just through collocations: the Cherry Blossom Festival, apple blossom time, etc. But "blossom" does carry a faint suggestion of fruit to come. An example that comes to mind is blossom end rot, a condition of tomatoes and other vegetables. Also, Bradford pear trees are sterile and you don't think of them as having blossoms, you think of them as blooming.
     

    SC_newbie

    New Member
    English
    "blossom" does carry a faint suggestion of fruit to come. An example that comes to mind is blossom end rot, a condition of tomatoes and other vegetables. Also, Bradford pear trees are sterile and you don't think of them as having blossoms, you think of them as blooming.
    k-in-sc, I really like your answer and it seems to have the merit to confirm my writing a sequence of "bud, blossom, bloom"...I am not an expert in such matters but I do research in words since I am a writer...my thought is first the bud then the blossom [opening of bud] then the bloom [completion as "in full bloom" for "full flower"...I also agree the context is important...and for any trying to learn English, THIS must be frustrating for them because I am native English and it frustrates me but words are also the paintbrushes of the tongue and I love them! btw I am new here and excited about finding this site!!
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I have always thought of it in that order as well. A rosebud opens into a blossom. When it is completely open it is a bloom. "From bud to blossom to bloom" sounds very, very familiar to me, but I can't think of the source, whether Biblical or Shakespearean or elsewhere.

    It gets more confusing when you find sentences like "When do the cherry blossoms bloom?" :)
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Noun: A bloom is an individual growth from a plant. Blossom is either all the blooms you see on a tree (cherry blossom, for example) or an individual bloom in the tree. So, blossom is associated with trees. In both cases the unopened is called a bud.

    Verb: You should be able to work out the literal meaning of the verbs from the above paragraph. However, they can be used metaphorically. Someone, for example, could blossom or bloom: a skill or ability could suddenly develop. You could also speak about the blossoming or blooming of something.
    I bought a bunch of lilies and they were in bud then . Now they are all "in blossom" or "blooming".

    Are they both correct and the same? If so, which is better in this situation? Thank you.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I bought a bunch of lilies and they were in bud then . Now they are all "in blossom" or "blooming".

    Are they both correct and the same? If so, which is better in this situation? Thank you.
    Personally, I'd not use either. I would probably say they were in flower.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Neither. As far as I am concerned buds open, they don't bloom or blossom.
    I wonder then if this is a difference between varieties of English on different sides of the Atlantic? Bloom is obviously about flowering. Blossom to my ears make me think first and foremost about trees rather than flowers.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Blossom is, as a countable noun meaning "a lot of little flowers on a stalk"

    This is "blossom"
    Blossom can be an uncountable noun, meaning a great quantity of blossoms:

    A bloom is a single flower:

    To blossom means to develop into blossom.
    To bloom means to develop into a bloom.

    Both of them mean to flower and, figuratively, "to mature in a pleasing way."​
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    This bunch of flowers are "blooming" or "in bloom" or "in flower".

    Are they all correct? If so, which is the best?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    1. This bunch of flowers are blooming.
    2. This bunch of flowers are in bloom.
    3. This bunch of flowers are in flower".
    1 and 2 mean different things
    3. is not used because of the repetative use of "flower"
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    1. This bunch of flowers are blooming.
    2. This bunch of flowers are in bloom.
    3. This bunch of flowers are in flower".
    1 and 2 mean different things
    3. is not used because of the repetative use of "flower"
    Thank you PaulQ! What's the difference between "blooming" and "in bloom"?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "blooming" is the participle and indicates that the flowers are in the process of blooming and have not yet completed that process.
    "in bloom" is an adjectival phrase that indicates that the process of blooming has stopped and they are now fully open.
     
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