Pronunciation: BAY-zil or BAH-zil
Other forms of the name: Basile, Vasili, Basilius, Wasyl
Basil comes from the Greek basileus which means “King” and is known as the “king of herbs”; it is a masculine fire herb that is of the planet Mars. It is a staple of Italian cooking and is also used in Northeast Asian cuisine. The most common type of basil is called “sweet basil”. There is also Holy Basil and Lemon Basil, which is used more commonly in Asian food, and African Blue Basil.
In lore basil was said to protect against the venom of a basilisk, a mythological snake known for its deadly stare. In Indian mythology the God Krishna’s consort, Lakshmi, is said to take on the form of Holy Basil, or “tulsi”. Tulsi is worshipped throughout India and is a sacred plant. When someone is dying the petals of the tulsi are mixed with water and fed to them to lift their souls to heaven.
Basil last appeared in US popularity list in 1972 when it ranked #999 so it is fairly rare, a plus for many of us. Probably the most famous Basil is Basil Rathbone, known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in fourteen movies with Nigel Bruce.