Could someone explain to me the differences in meaning between those words: branch, twig, and bough? For me they look very similar. Picture would be very helpful. :)

  • Pine boughs are pine branches cut from the the tree to make wreaths and garlands. Pine boughs are cut pine branches. Branches are still part of the tree - boughs are not. Not sure if this is correct but this is how I've always used the word bough. – Keith Campbell Nov 20 '16 at 0:11

In order of sizes, smallest to largest:

Twigs, branches, boughs and then trunk.

Twigs are the smallest branches

  1. Twig: A small branch or division of a branch (especially a terminal division).
  2. Branch: A division of a stem, or secondary stem arising from the main stem of a plant
  3. Bough: Any of the larger branches of a tree

In general, twigs are where leaves and flowers bud from. Branches are where twigs originate.

Prunus Twig (credits: Wikimedia)


Ivy Branch (Credits: GraphicsSoft)


I couldn't find a satisfying image for boughs. Sorry about that.

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  • 2
    It may be worth mentioning, though, I rarely hear the word bough in conversation, outside the Rock-a-Bye Baby song. I'm not surprised it was hard to find an image; I doubt many folks use that word when labeling their pictures. – J.R. Jun 13 '13 at 2:36

I use the word twig when I'm talking about something rather small, something small enough that I could pick it up using only a finger and my thumb.

The word branch is more flexible; I'd use that for anything much bigger than a twig, all the way up to something so large I'd have to drag it across the ground to move it.

When I'm building a fire, I use twigs and broken branches as kindling, before I put the logs on the fire.

Notice how this news story refers to a tree "branch" for the limb in this picture:

Tree branch falls on car

As I said in my comment in another answer, I rarely hear the word bough used in everyday conversation. There are trees; trees have branches, and the small ends of the branches are twigs.

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The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary has a picture of a tree with vocabulary. "Bough" is lacking, though. Probably because bough /bau/ is mainly literary for branch.

enter image description here

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I would say you need several hands to wrap around a bough, and it does not really refer to the off shoots (usually branches) from it.

A branch can be as big as a bough but also a lot smaller. It also refers to the off shouts.

A twig will have few if any off shouts, a finger can wrap around it and would be easy to snap or bend. While on the plant people usually don't refer to the twigs but the branch it is on, however they do describe plants or branches as twiggy.

There are a hoard of other words used to describe the limbs and sticks of and from trees and other plants, depending on various qualities like suppleness.

This purely comes from my personal experience.

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I think there's no real difference of meaning and use between branch and bough but the origin of each word. According to its etymology bough refers to shoulder (or the beginning of the arm from the shoulder). So it can be considered that a bough is a "branch" starting from the trunk but not really when they are speaking about.

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