Olive Branch (Hold Out an Olive Branch)

Offer an olive branch
Extend an olive branch

Meaning of Idiom ‘Olive Branch’

An olive branch is a symbol of peace and goodwill or the sign of a wish for peace; a peace offering. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010. ,2Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Meaning of Idiom ‘Hold Out an (Extend an, Offer an) Olive Branch’

To hold out an olive branch is to say or do something that shows you want a fight or disagreement to end.  4Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012 

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An olive branch is figuratively “held out” or “extended” as an offer of peace and goodwill.

Examples of Use

“The newly independent country was the first to extend an olive branch to its quarelling neighbor.”

“The two families had been feuding for so long neither remembered what they were fighting over. When one offered an olive branch, the other family quickly accepted.”

“The Democrats held out an olive branch to the Republicans, hoping to promote bipartisanship.”

“In negotiations, you have to be willing to take an olive branch when its offered.”


The olive branch has been a symbol of peace since ancient times and has been used as an idiom since around 1600. It is mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis 8:11, where the dove comes to Noah after the flood with an olive branch in its mouth:

And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”

This passage indicates that Noah already knew what the olive branch meant and that he took it as a sign of peace from God.

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