AskDefine | Define mahogany

Dictionary Definition



1 wood of any of various mahogany trees; much used for cabinetwork and furniture
2 any of various tropical timber trees of the family Meliaceae especially the genus Swietinia valued for their hard yellowish- to reddish-brown wood that is readily worked and takes a high polish [syn: mahogany tree]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of various tropical American evergreen trees, of the genus Swietenia, having a valuable hard red-brown wood.
  2. The wood of these trees, mostly used to make furniture.


Extensive Definition

The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored wood, originally the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban Mahogany. It was later used also for the wood of Swietenia macrophylla, which is closely related, and known as Honduras Mahogany. Today, all species of Swietenia are listed by CITES, and are therefore protected. Species of Swietenia cross readily when they grow in proximity, the hybrid between S. mahagoni and S. macrophylla is widely planted. Mahogany is also the national tree of Dominican Republic. It is also part of the national seal of Belize which was known as British Honduras before independence.
The name "mahogany" is also commonly used to refer to the African genus Khaya (closely related to Swietenia), hence the term African Mahogany.
"Mahoganies" may refer to the wider group of all the timbers yielded by the three related genera Swietenia, Khaya and Entandrophragma. The timbers of Entandrophragma are traded under their individual names, sometimes with "mahogany" attached as a suffix, for example "sipo" may be referred to as "sipo mahogany".
In addition, the timber trade deals with various FTC defined "mahoganies", under a variety of different names, most notably "Philippine mahogany".


Mahogany has a generally straight grain and is usually free of voids and pockets. It has a reddish-brown colour which darkens over time, and displays a beautiful reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable and slow to rot. These properties make it a favorable wood for boat making, as tradition has shown, as well as for making furniture and upholstery (see Chippendale), musical instruments, and other durable objects. Some of the gift shops in the Caribbean especially St. Croix offer Cuban Mahogany in the form of jewelry. Mahogany is a very popular material for drum making, because of its great integrity and capability to produce a very dark, warm tone compared to other more common wood types like maple or birch. The famous Beatles sound of the 60s was made with Ludwig Drums in mahogany shells. Today, several drum manufacturers have rediscovered the features of mahogany shells, resulting in several high end series offering shells made in this wood.
A wide variety of electric guitars are also made from mahogany, like Gibson's Les Paul line and most of the PRS guitars among others. It is noted, again, for its dark properties, as well as its weight (Gibson Les Pauls may weigh as much as 15 pounds), the combination of which produces a warm, rounded tone with huge sustain, for which the guitar is famous.
Mahogany is a very popular choice of material for luthiers constructing all grades of acoustic guitars. Often mahogany is used for the back and sides of the guitar, while cedar, spruce, or another lighter-colored and more loosely-grained wood is used for the top.
Mahogany is now being used for the bodies of high-end stereo phonographic record cartridges and for stereo headphones, where it is noted for “warm” or “musical” sound.


mahogany in Czech: Mahagon
mahogany in Danish: Mahogni (tømmer)
mahogany in Spanish: Caoba
mahogany in French: Acajou
mahogany in Ido: Mahagono
mahogany in Italian: Mogano
mahogany in Dutch: Mahonie
mahogany in Japanese: マホガニー
mahogany in Polish: Mahoń
mahogany in Portuguese: Mogno
mahogany in Finnish: Mahonki
mahogany in Swedish: Mahogny
mahogany in Chinese: 桃花心木
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