|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
(Hebrews nerd), a much-valued perfume (Cant. 1:12; 4:13, 14). It was "very precious", i.e., very costly (Mark 14:3; John 12:3, 5). It is the root of an Indian plant, the Nardostachys jatamansi, of the family of Valeriance, growing on the Himalaya mountains. It is distinguished by its having many hairy spikes shooting out from one root. It is called by the Arabs sunbul Hindi, "the Indian spike." In the New Testament this word is the rendering of the Greek nardos pistike. The margin of the Revised Version in these passages has "pistic nard," pistic being perhaps a local name. Some take it to mean genuine, and others liquid. The most probable opinion is that the word pistike designates the nard as genuine or faithfully prepared.
Noah Webster's Dictionary
1. (n.) An aromatic plant. In the United States it is the Aralia racemosa, often called spignet, and used as a medicine. The spikenard of the ancients is the Nardostachys Jatamansi, a native of the Himalayan region. From its blackish roots a perfume for the hair is still prepared in India.
2. (n.) A fragrant essential oil, as that from the Nardostachys Jatamansi.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
spik'-nard (nerd; nardos (Songs 1:12; Songs 4:14); neradhim; nardoi (Songs 4:13), "spikenard plants"; nardos pistike (Mark 14:3 John 12:3), "pure nard," margin "liquid nard"; the English word is for "spiked nard," which comes from the Nardus spicatus of the Vulgate): Spikenard is the plant Nardostachys jatamansi (Natural Order, Valerianaceae); in Arabic the name Sunbul hind, "Indian spike," refers, like the English and Latin name, to the "snike"-like shape of the plant from which the perfume comes. The dried plant as sold consists of the "withered stalks and ribs of leaves cohering in a bundle of yellowish-brown capillary fibres and consisting of a spike about the size of a small finger" (Sir W. Jones, As. Res., II, 409); in appearance the whole plant is said to look like the tail of an ermine. It grows in the Himalayas. The extracted perfume is an oil, which was used by the Romans for anointing the head. Its great costliness is mentioned by Pliny.
With regard to the exact meaning of the pistike, in the New Testament, there is much difference of opinion: "pure" and "liquid" are both given in margin, but it has also been suggested among other things that this was a local name, that it comes from the Latin spicita or from pisita, the Sanskrit name of the spikenard plant. The question is an open one: either "genuine" or "pure" is favored by most commentators.
E. W. G. Masterman
Spikenard (4 Occurrences)
John 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (KJV WEY WBS YLT)
Song of Songs 1:12 While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. (KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT)
Song of Songs 4:13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates, with precious fruits: henna with spikenard plants, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS)
Song of Songs 4:14 spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree; myrrh and aloes, with all the best spices, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS)