Definition of camas in English:


(also camass, quamash)

Pronunciation /ˈkaməs/ /ˈkæməs/


  • A North American plant of the lily family, cultivated for its starry blue or purple flowers.

    Genera Camassia and Zigadenus, family Liliaceae: several species, including C. quamash, the large bulbs of which are edible

    ‘More commonly known as a spring bulb with a vibrant blue flower, quamash is native to Canada and the western United States, and its edible bulb was once a mainstay of native diets.’
    • ‘The most significant of the edibles, camas was eaten during the first of many friendly encounters with the Nez Perce along Idaho's Clearwater River.’
    • ‘The wetter areas support meadows containing Missouri goldenrod, false toadflax, golden-glow, Indian paintbrush, Mariposa lily, death camas, and prairie smoke.’
    • ‘And if the blossom should be blue as the camas, orange and spotted as the tiger-lily, yellow as the broom or all of these, is it any less beautiful?’
    • ‘Believing they had left the conflict behind them, they rested, cut tepee poles and cooked camas in preparation for their journey to the buffalo country of eastern Montana.’
    • ‘The horse-rich families with thirty horses apiece would go to hunt for meat and robes or to trade horses for buffalo robes or camas for clothing.’
    • ‘The bulb of the camas lily, which grows primarily in wet meadows, was a principal plant food.’
    • ‘Pine nuts were particularly important toward the south and camas bulbs to the north.’
    • ‘Women gathered roots, prairie turnips, bitterroot, and camas bulbs in the early summer.’
    • ‘I set out bulbs like daffodils and camas, which have naturalized with gusto.’


Mid 19th century from Chinook Jargon kamass, perhaps from Nootka.