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

  • n. The coat of wool of a sheep or similar animal.
  • n. The yield of wool shorn from a sheep at one time.
  • n. A soft woolly covering or mass.
  • n. Fabric with a soft deep pile.
  • transitive v. To defraud of money or property; swindle.
  • transitive v. To shear the fleece from.
  • transitive v. To cover with or as if with fleece.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Hair or wool of a sheep or similar animal
  • n. Insulating skin with the wool attached
  • n. A textile similar to velvet, but with a longer pile that gives it a softness and a higher sheen.
  • n. An insulating wooly jacket
  • n. Mat or felts composed of fibers, sometimes used as a membrane backer.
  • v. Con or trick someone out of money.
  • v. To shear the fleece from an animal (such as a sheep).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The entire coat of wool that covers a sheep or other similar animal; also, the quantity shorn from a sheep, or animal, at one time.
  • n. Any soft woolly covering resembling a fleece.
  • n. The fine web of cotton or wool removed by the doffing knife from the cylinder of a carding machine.
  • transitive v. To deprive of a fleece, or natural covering of wool.
  • transitive v. To strip of money or other property unjustly, especially by trickery or fraud; to bring to straits by oppressions and exactions.
  • transitive v. To spread over as with wool.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To deprive of the fleece or natural covering of wool.
  • To clip or diminish, as a fleece: said of dishonest taking of goods or property.
  • To strip of money or property unfairly or under false pretenses; rob heartlessly; take from without mercy.
  • To spread over as if with a fleece of wool.
  • n. The coat of wool that covers a sheep, or that is shorn from a sheep at one time.
  • n. Something resembling a fleece of wool in quality or appearance.
  • n. Specifically— A textile fabric with a Soft silky pile, used for warmth, as for lining certain garments, gloves, etc.
  • n. The long and soft nap or pile of such a fabric.
  • n. The loose and thin sheet of cotton or wool coming from the breaking-card in the process of manufacture.
  • n. In heraldry, the woolly skin of a sheep, usually so depicted that it resembles the animal itself, suspended by means of a ring passing around its middle.
  • n. In a bison, the fat and lean meat which lies along the loin and ribs.
  • n. [⟨ fleece, v.] A snatch; an attempt to fleece.
  • n. In anat., white fibers, resembling wool, encircling the corpus dentatum in the cerebellum. Also called fleece of Stilling.

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

  • v. shear the wool from
  • n. tanned skin of a sheep with the fleece left on; used for clothing
  • v. rip off; ask an unreasonable price
  • n. outer coat of especially sheep and yaks
  • n. a soft bulky fabric with deep pile; used chiefly for clothing
  • n. the wool of a sheep or similar animal


Middle English fles, from Old English flēos.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English flees, from Old English flēos. Cognate to Albanian flok ("hair") and Russian волос ("a hair"). (Wiktionary)


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  • Now if on Swithun’s feast the welkin lours
    And every penthouse streams with hasty showers,
    Twice twenty days shall clouds their fleeces drain
    And wash the pavement with incessant rain.

    - John Gay, cited here.

    July 20, 2009