The shamrock is a three-leafed old white clover. It is known as a symbol of Ireland. The name shamrock is derived from Irish seamróg, which is the diminutive version of the Irish word for clover (seamair).
It is sometimes of the variety Trifolium repens (white clover, Irish: seamair bhán) but today usually Trifolium dubium (lesser clover, Irish: seamair bhuí). However, other three-leafed plants — such as Medicago lupulina, Trifolium pratense, and Oxalis — are sometimes designated as shamrocks. The shamrock was traditionally used for its medical properties and was a popular motif in Victorian times.
According to what the Oxford English Dictionary calls "a late tradition" (first recorded in 1726), the plant was used by Saint Patrick to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. However, the posthumous timing of this legend (coming some 1,200 years after his death), and the lack of supporting evidence found in St. Patrick's writings have caused some to question its authenticity. In the 19th Century the shamrock became a symbol of rebellion against the English. Anyone wearing it risked death by hanging.
The shamrock has been registered as a trademark by the Government of Ireland. It is also informally used as an emblem for sports teams and state organisations within Ireland: the IRFU, Shamrock Rovers F.C., IDA Ireland, University College Dublin and Fáilte Ireland use it as part of their identity.
In Northern Ireland, it is also used by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and is included on the Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom. Additionally, former Formula 1 racing driver Eddie Irvine included a shamrock on the back of his helmet and the shamrock is part of the uniform of the Royal Irish Regiment. The shamrock forms a major constituent of the team badge for football team Cliftonville F.C., similar to the badge of Celtic F.C.. The shamrock, and variously the Flax plant, is also a symbol of Northern Ireland.
Outside Ireland, various organisations, businesses and places use the symbol to advertise a connection with the island. Basketball team Boston Celtics in the USA incorporate the shamrock in their logos and the US cereal Lucky Charms uses it on the product's mascot and as a shape in the cereal itself.
Traditionally in Ireland, and in many places throughout the world, the shamrock is worn on the lapel on St. Patrick's Day.
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