Definition of verdant by Cambridge Dictionary:

covered with healthy green plants or grass

Definition of lush by Cambridge Dictionary:

A lush area has a lot of green, healthy plants, grass, and trees

So what is the difference if I say verdant valleys vs lush green valleys?

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Verdant describes the land; whereas lush describes the quality of the vegetation growing on the land.

"Verdant" comes from the Latin viridis which means "green". You can describe a piece of land or ground as "verdant" if it is green from the vegetation (ie grass) growing on it.

But "lush" describes the quality of the vegetation itself - that it is luxurious, abundant, flourishing.

This ngram is interesting - it seems that in the past it was more common to describe a valley as "verdant", but in more recent times there is a trend to describe a valley as "lush". However these are very small numbers, so I wouldn't place too much emphasis on it.

I would say that either of your suggested options are fine and convey the same meaning. "Verdant" might not be as widely used or known, but, also "lush" has taken on a secondary, more informal use in modern British English. Saying "lush green valleys" though makes it very clear you are describing the grass and vegetation.

  • hmm, what about lush vs luxuriant? – XPMai Oct 19 at 16:09
  • @XPMai luxuriant is uncommon enough that I have never heard it before. – mbrig Oct 19 at 16:18
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    "But "lush" describes the quality of the vegetation itself - that it is luxurious, abundant, flourishing" You may be confusing "luxurious" and "luxuriant" – Acccumulation Oct 19 at 19:36

Two significant differences are that:

  • 'verdant' and 'lush' are perceived to come from different languages, 'verdant' from Latin and 'lush' from French, and this has an effect on who uses them, and when.
  • 'lush' has the essence of moist, and notice how you have teamed it 'with 'green' in your examples while 'verdant' stands alone.
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    Good points, and I believe your second bulleted point is the more important. Verdant requires green, while lush allows green as a secondary quality of what is being described. For example, grassy plains could still appear lush as the weather and season have started turning them golden brown. This scene could not be described as verdant however. – RichF Oct 19 at 11:25
  • @RichF I would say "verdant implies green": that is, any verdant place is green. Saying"verdant requires green" suggests that, if you say "verdant", you must also say "green", which is kind of the opposite. – David Richerby Oct 19 at 16:31
  • @David Richerby I guess I was not clear. When stating "verdant requires green" I was not speaking of the word green, but the color green itself. I.e. I agree with your understanding of verdant. Thus "the lush green valley" makes sense to say because the word lush does not necessitate the presence of green in the valley. However "the verdant green valley" would be redundant because the word verdant had already necessitated that the valley be green – RichF Oct 19 at 17:05
  • @RichF Yes. I knew what you were trying to say -- I was just saying that the wording you used suggested something else. – David Richerby Oct 19 at 17:08
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    "'verdant' and 'lush' are perceived to come from different languages" I don't think "lush" is perceived as French. – Acccumulation Oct 19 at 19:37

In the US I don't recall ever hearing the word verdant, though I've read it.
Lush is more common in my experience, but according to this ngram they are heading towards exchanging places.

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    ngram results may be a little off because 'lush' is also a noun meaning a drunkard (although that is an old-fashioned usage) – MMAdams Oct 19 at 19:32

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