Frankincense and myrrh

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Frankincense and myrrh are two words that are commonly used during the Christmas season. We will examine the meanings of the words frankincense and myrrh, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin that is collected from the Boswellia, an African tree. Frankincense is collected by making a long cut in the trunk of the tree, allowing the sap to ooze out. The sap is left to harden into droplets which are then harvested. Frankincense was used in religious ceremonies, and is perhaps most well-known as one of the gifts of the Magi to the infant Jesus. Frankincense is considered a symbol of his priestly role. The word frankincense is derived from the word franc, meaning noble or pure, and incense, from the Latin incensum meaning that which is burned.

Myrrh is also an aromatic resin, collected from the Commiphora, another African tree. The method of collecting myrrh is the same as collecting frankincense. Myrrh was used as a perfume, medicine and embalming medium. Myrrh is also well-known as a gift of the Magi to the infant Jesus, signifying his death. The Magi also brought a gift of gold, symbolizing that the infant was a king. The word myrrh is derived from the Latin word myrrha or the Arabic word murr, meaning bitter.


The ancient Romans and Greeks used frankincense and myrrh in religious ceremonies and recognized a wide range of medicinal effects. (The Post INdependent)

The frankincense (pungent and sweet) and myrrh (sharp and piney) recounted in the Gospel of St Matthew are being grown by Guy Erlich, a businessman who hopes to revive the rare plants’ use for commercial ends. (Christian Today)