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any of various oily, fragrant, resinous substances, often of medicinal value, exuding from certain plants, especially tropical trees of the genus Commiphora.
a plant or tree yielding such a substance.
any aromatic or fragrant ointment.
aromatic fragrance; sweet odor:
the balm of orange blossoms.
any of various aromatic plants of the mint family, especially those of the genus Melissa, as M. officinalis (lemon balm) having ovate lemon-scented leaves used as a seasoning.
anything that heals, soothes, or mitigates pain:
the balm of friendship in troubled times.
Contemporary Examples

Gwen Ifill of NewsHour called Dawkins “our balm and our rock” at his funeral.
Six Months After Newtown, Gun Violence & Debate Continue Eliza Shapiro June 13, 2013

Michelle Obama is a balm to dark-skinned and insecure Negro women.
Michelle vs. the All-American Jackass Stanley Crouch March 24, 2009

Luckily, however, de Botton is insightful enough that he manages to provide some balm for the anxieties of any paycheck slave.
Loving the Daily Grind Maura Kelly June 3, 2009

Historical Examples

What an unlooked-for flight was this from our shadowy avenue of black-ash and balm of Gilead trees into the infinite!
Buds and Bird Voices (From “Mosses From An Old Manse”) Nathaniel Hawthorne

As usual, balm was on his lips, and I found encouragement and support.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, No. 327 Various

She was a creature born to be the succour of misery, the balm of distress.
The Matador of the Five Towns and Other Stories Arnold Bennett

I crave for the balm of Nature, the anodyne of solitude, the breath of Mother Earth.
Ballads of a Bohemian Robert W. Service

It was like balm to the soul after all the turmoil and friction with crowds of strangers.
Farthest North Fridtjof Nansen

I have no call for that: and that has no balm for the wounds of my mind.
Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson

Sometimes I lose patience with its parade of eternal idleness, but at others this very idleness is balm to one’s conscience.
Italian Hours Henry James

any of various oily aromatic resinous substances obtained from certain tropical trees and used for healing and soothing See also balsam (sense 1)
any plant yielding such a substance, esp the balm of Gilead
something comforting or soothing: soft music is a balm
any aromatic or oily substance used for healing or soothing
Also called lemon balm. an aromatic Eurasian herbaceous plant, Melissa officinalis, having clusters of small fragrant white two-lipped flowers: family Lamiaceae (labiates)
a pleasant odour

early 13c., basme, aromatic substance made from resins and oils, from Old French basme (Modern French baume), from Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon “balsam,” from Hebrew basam “spice,” related to Aramaic busma, Arabic basham “balsam, spice, perfume.”

Spelling refashioned 15c.-16c. on Latin model. Sense of “healing or soothing influence” (1540s) is from aromatic preparations from balsam (see balsam). Biblical Balm of Gilead, however, began with Coverdale; the Hebrew word there is tsori, which was rendered in Septuagint and Vulgate as “resin” (Greek rhetine, Latin resina).

balm (bäm)

An aromatic salve or oil.

A soothing, healing, or comforting agent.

(Block And List Manipulation) An extensible language, developed by Malcolm Harrison in 1970, with LISP-like features and ALGOL-like syntax, for CDC 6600.
[“The Balm Programming Language”, Malcolm Harrison, Courant Inst, May 1973].

contracted from Bal’sam, a general name for many oily or resinous substances which flow or trickle from certain trees or plants when an incision is made through the bark. (1.) This word occurs in the Authorized Version (Gen. 37:25; 43:11; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; Ezek. 27:17) as the rendering of the Hebrew word _tsori_ or _tseri_, which denotes the gum of a tree growing in Gilead (q.v.), which is very precious. It was celebrated for its medicinal qualities, and was circulated as an article of merchandise by Arab and Phoenician merchants. The shrub so named was highly valued, and was almost peculiar to Palestine. In the time of Josephus it was cultivated in the neighbourhood of Jericho and the Dead Sea. There is an Arab tradition that the tree yielding this balm was brought by the queen of Sheba as a present to Solomon, and that he planted it in his gardens at Jericho. (2.) There is another Hebrew word, _basam_ or _bosem_, from which our word “balsam,” as well as the corresponding Greek balsamon, is derived. It is rendered “spice” (Cant. 5:1, 13; 6:2; margin of Revised Version, “balsam;” Ex. 35:28; 1 Kings 10:10), and denotes fragrance in general. _Basam_ also denotes the true balsam-plant, a native of South Arabia (Cant. l.c.).


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