a tropical American tree, Ochroma pyramidale (lagopus), of the bombax family, yielding an exceedingly light wood used for life preservers, rafts, toy airplanes, etc.
a raft made of balsa wood.
any life raft.
Historical Examples

Also among the ruins of the balsa we found some of the dried fish that was left to us, and having washed it, filled ourselves.
The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard

Behind yonder rock is my balsa and with it are the two maidens.
The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard

Passing through the gates the bearers placed the balsa on the ground and fell back.
The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard

On this coast we again meet with wooden canoes, although the balsa, or tule raft, is also in use.
The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Volume 1 Hubert Howe Bancroft

Up betimes upon the morning of our second day on shore, for a drive to the balsa.
Kathay: A Cruise in the China Seas W. Hastings Macaulay

“The balsa will not overset, sailing beneath the moon with that Moon-lady for a pilot,” he replied heavily.
The Virgin of the Sun H. R. Haggard

In a few minutes the balsa lodged against the shore in the still water of a little cove.
Captured by the Navajos Charles A. Curtis

A canoe formed from the trunk of a large tree, generally cedar or balsa wood.
The Sailor’s Word-Book William Henry Smyth

The people and houses crossed it swimming, and the baggage was carried over in a balsa, a sort of hide-raft.
Buenos Ayres and the Provinces of the Rio de La Plata Woodbine Parish

He made a landing on a sand-spit that struck off from an outward curve of the bank, and dragged the balsa out of the water.
Captured by the Navajos Charles A. Curtis

a bombacaceous tree, Ochroma lagopus, of tropical America
Also called balsawood. the very light wood of this tree, used for making rafts, etc
a light raft

South American tree, 1866, apparently from Spanish balsa “float,” originally the name of rafts used on the Pacific coast of Latin America (1777). The wood is very light.

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