[L. laurus.] The name given to a genus of plants, consisting of trees and shrubs, whose leaves and fruit are bitter, astringent, and aromatic, and were formerly much used in medicine. Laurel or bay leaves are now used for flavoring in cookery. The laurel or sweet bay is a small evergreen tree, found in the south of Europe and north of Africa. It has beautiful glossy leaves, and bears black berries about the size of wild cherries. This laurel is celebrated by poets, and used to decorate temples and the brows of victors. The victors in the Pythian games were crowned with the laurels of Apollo, and thus the laurel became the symbol of triumph in Greece and then in Rome. The American laurel is found almost all over the United States, growing chiefly on rocky hillsides. Its wood is hard and fine-grained, and is used by turners for making chisel handles.