Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Zoology A mass of strong, silky filaments by which certain bivalve mollusks, such as mussels, attach themselves to rocks and other fixed surfaces.
  • n. A fine-textured linen of ancient times, used by the Egyptians for wrapping mummies.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An exceptionally fine and valuable fibre or cloth of ancient times. Originally used for fine flax and linens, its use was later extended to fine cottons, silks, and sea silk.
  • n. The long fine silky filaments excreted by several mollusks (particularly Pinna nobilis) by which they attach themselves to the sea bed, from which sea silk is manufactured.
  • n. The stipe or stem of some fungi which are particularly thin and thread-like.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A cloth of exceedingly fine texture, used by the ancients. It is disputed whether it was of cotton, linen, or silk.
  • n. A tuft of long, tough filaments which are formed in a groove of the foot, and issue from between the valves of certain bivalve mollusks, as the Pinna and Mytilus, by which they attach themselves to rocks, etc.
  • n. An obsolete name for certain fungi composed of slender threads.
  • n. Asbestus.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Among the ancients, originally, a fine yellowish flax, especially Indian and Egyptian, and the linen made from it, such as the Egyptian mummy-cloth; afterward, also, cotton and silk (the latter, before its origin was known, being taken for a kind of cotton).
  • n. One of the byssi, a name formerly given by botanists to a heterogeneous collection of filamentous cryptogamic plants.
  • n. In conchology, a long, delicate, lustrous, and silky bunch of filaments, secreted by the foot, and serving as a means of attachment to other Objects.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. tuft of strong filaments by which e.g. a mussel makes itself fast to a fixed surface

Etymologies

Middle English bissus, linen cloth, from Latin, from Greek bussos, linen; akin to Sanskrit picuḥ, cotton (of Dravidian origin), or ultimately from Egyptian w'ḏ, linen.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From New Latin byssus ("sea silk"), from Latin byssus ("fine cotton or cotton stuff, silk"), from Ancient Greek βύσσος ("a very fine yellowish flax and the linen woven from it"), from Hebrew בּוּץ (butz), Aramaic בּוש (bus). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Mussels anchor themselves in the inter-tidal zone by means of a thatch of tough proteinaceous fibers called the byssus, or “beard.”

    On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen

  • These strategically placed threads form a bundle called the byssus, which tethers the mussel to its new home in much the same way that guy ropes hold down a tent.

    WN.com - Articles related to Sea secrets - over 5,000 new marine species found

  • The illustration shows a rare species, several specimens of which were found attached to the mooring-chain of a buoy by what is known as the "byssus," a bunch of tough fibres which passes through an hiatus in the margins of the valves.

    Tropic Days

  • Then comes a period of rest, obtained by using the long thread or 'byssus' (B) as a float, this thread being thrown out along the surface of the water.

    Chatterbox, 1906

  • In large part, moving food along the alimentary tract is a matter of smooth muscle functioning, and Pavlov decided to investigate the byssus retractor, the smooth muscle that Mytilus edulis, the common mussel, uses to close its shell.

    MANUFACTURING DEPRESSION

  • In Ave byssus castitatis, up to the last line the words are in alphabetical order.

    Archive 2009-06-01

  • The byssus is unknown to us, but the stuffs of Lyons are more valuable.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • “Still assuming that I am an individual, and human, and not a madrepore of linked beans.” byssus.

    Ready for the SAT « So Many Books

  • “And it was given her to wear a splendid, wholesome byssus, whose splendor shall be like to priceless gems.”

    Ready for the SAT « So Many Books

  • "Polar bear", for a guy whose growing up hormones were working overtime on his byssus and tache, and he never cared bout his becoming a hirsute.

    Archive 2007-08-01

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