Originally: the spiny shrub Paliurus spina-christi, also called Christ's thorn. Later also: any of the Eurasian shrubs and small trees which constitute the genus Paliurus (family Rhamnaceae); (in form Paliurus) the genus itself.
Adopted as a genus name by J. Pitton de Tournefort Inst. Rei Herbariae (1700) I. xxi. iii. 616.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in John Trevisa (c1342–?1402), translator. From classical Latin paliūrus a spiny shrub from ancient Greek παλίουρος, of unknown origin.