- the soft, lustrous fiber obtained as a filament from the cocoon of the silkworm.
- thread made from this fiber.
- cloth made from this fiber.
- a garment of this cloth.
- a gown of such material worn distinctively by a King’s or Queen’s Counsel at the English bar.
- silks, the blouse and peaked cap, considered together, worn by a jockey or sulky driver in a race.
- Informal. a parachute, especially one opened aloft.
- any fiber or filamentous matter resembling silk, as a filament produced by certain spiders, the thread of a mollusk, or the like.
- the hairlike styles on an ear of corn.
- British Informal.
- a King’s or Queen’s Counsel.
- any barrister of high rank.
- made of silk.
- resembling silk; .
- of or relating to silk.
verb (used without object)
- (of corn) to be in the course of developing silk.
- hit the silk, Slang. to parachute from an aircraft; bail out.
- take silk, British. to become a Queen’s or King’s Counsel.
- the very fine soft lustrous fibre produced by a silkworm to make its cocoon
- thread or fabric made from this fibre
- (as modifier)a silk dress
- a garment made of this
- a very fine fibre produced by a spider to build its web, nest, or cocoon
- the tuft of long fine styles on an ear of maize
- the gown worn by a Queen’s (or King’s) Counsel
- informala Queen’s (or King’s) Counsel
- take silkto become a Queen’s (or King’s) Counsel
- (intr) US and Canadian (of maize) to develop long hairlike styles
c.1300, from Old English seoloc, sioloc “silk, silken cloth,” from Latin sericum “silk,” plural serica “silken garments, silks,” literally “Seric stuff,” neuter of Sericus, from Greek Serikos “silken; pertaining to the Seres,” an oriental people of Asia from whom the Greeks got silks. Western cultivation began 552 C.E., when agents from Byzantium impersonating monks smuggled silkworms and mulberry leaves out of China.
Chinese si “silk,” Manchurian sirghe, Mongolian sirkek have been compared to this and the people name in Greek might be a rendering via Mongolian of the Chinese word for “silk,” but this is uncertain.
Also found in Old Norse as silki but not elsewhere in Germanic. The more common Germanic form is represented by Middle English say, from Old French seie, with Spanish seda, Italian seta, Dutch zijde, German Seide is from Medieval Latin seta “silk,” perhaps elliptical for seta serica, or else a particular use of seta “bristle, hair” (see (n.)).
According to some sources [Buck, OED], the use of -l- instead of -r- in the Balto-Slavic form of the word (cf. Old Church Slavonic šelku, Lithuanian šilkai) passed into English via the Baltic trade and may reflect a Chinese dialectal form, or a Slavic alteration of the Greek word. But the Slavic linguist Vasmer dismisses that, based on the initial sh- in the Slavic words, and suggests the Slavic words are from Scandinavian rather than the reverse.
As an adjective from mid-14c. In reference to the “hair” of corn, 1660s, American English. Figurative use of silk-stocking (n.) is from 1590s; as an adjective meaning “wealthy” it is attested from 1798, American English (silk stockings, especially worn by men, being regarded as extravagant and reprehensible, indicative of luxurious habits). Silk-screen (n.) is first attested 1930; as a verb from 1961. Silk road so called in English from 1931.
- A fiber produced by silkworms to form cocoons. Silk is strong, flexible, and fibrous, and is essentially a long continuous strand of protein. It is widely used to make thread and fabric.
- A substance similar to the silk of the silkworm but produced by other insect larvae or by spiders to spin webs.
see can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; smooth as silk.