(2 syl.). Sacred to Pallas Athene. (See Olive-Tree.)
(1) Chastity. In Greece the newly-married bride wore an olive-garland; with us the orange-blossom is more usual.
(2) Fecundity. The fruit of the olive is produced in vast profusion; so that olive-trees are valuable to their owners. (See Orange-Blossoms.)
(3) Merit. In ancient Greece a crown of olive-twigs was the highest distinction of a citizen who had deserved well of his country.
(4) Peace. An olive-branch was anciently a symbol of peace. The vanquished who sued for peace carried olive-branches in their hands. And an olive-twig in the hands of a king (on medals), as in the case of Numa, indicated a reign of peace.
To hold out the olive branch. To make overtures of peace.
(5) Prosperity. David says, “I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God” (Psalm lii. 8).
(6) Victory. The highest prize in the Olympic games was a crown of olive-leaves.
ORIGIN of the olive-tree. The tale is, that Athene (Minerva) and Poseidon (Neptune) disputed the honour of giving a name of a certain city of Greece, and agreed to settle the question by a trial of which could produce the best gift for the new city. Athene commanded the earth to bring forth the olive-tree. Poseidon commanded the sea to bring forth the war-horse. Athene's gift was adjudged the better, and the city was called Athens.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894