Definitions

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

  • n. Dental floss.
  • n. Short or waste silk fibers, especially from the outer surface of the cocoon of a silkworm.
  • n. Soft, loosely twisted thread, as of silk or cotton, used in embroidery.
  • n. A downy or silky fibrous substance, such as corn silk or silk cotton.
  • transitive v. To clean between (teeth) with dental floss.
  • intransitive v. To use dental floss.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a thread, used to clean the area between the teeth
  • n. silk fibres
  • n. the fibres covering a corn cob
  • n. Any thread-like material having parallel strands that are not spun or wound around each other.
  • n. Spun sugar or cotton candy, especially in the phrase "candy floss".
  • v. To clean the area between the teeth using floss.
  • v. To show off, especially by exhibiting one’s wealth or talent.
  • n. A small stream of water.
  • n. Fluid glass floating on iron in the puddling furnace, produced by the vitrification of oxides and earths which are present.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The slender styles of the pistillate flowers of maize; also called silk.
  • n. Untwisted filaments of silk, used in embroidering.
  • n. A body feather of an ostrich. Flosses are soft, and gray from the female and black from the male.
  • n. A small stream of water.
  • n. Fluid glass floating on iron in the puddling furnace, produced by the vitrification of oxides and earths which are present.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small stream of water: used as a name in the extract.
  • n. A fluid glass floating upon iron in a puddling-furnace, produced by the vitrification of oxids and earths.
  • n. Same as floss-hole.
  • n. A downy or silky substance inclosed by the husks of certain plants, as maize and milkweed.
  • n. Same as floss-silk.
  • n. The leaves of red canary-grass; also, the common rush.
  • n. The loose silk which envelops the cocoon-pod of the silkworm.

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

  • v. use dental floss to clean
  • n. a soft thread for cleaning the spaces between the teeth
  • n. a soft loosely twisted thread used in embroidery

Etymologies

Perhaps alteration of French floche, tuft of wool, from Old French floc, floche, from Latin floccus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Compare German Floss a float. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • At least fairy floss is still affordable, though I'll be keeping a low profile this afternoon while hundreds of local children hit one almighty sugar crash!

    Archive 2009-03-01

  • The more that I think about it, the more this case resembles McNeil-PPC v. Pfizer, the dental floss case from SDNY, where the key question was what it meant to “floss” — did it mean to floss correctly, or to floss the way most people actually floss, which is to say badly.

    Archive 2009-01-01

  • I was also in a good mood because I found a shop selling embroidery supplies and there is apparently no equivalent in Heidelberg except the Kaufhof selling a few colors of floss, which is a much bigger town.

    Wernigerode

  • As a rule of thumb, I would submit that if you need to call your floss provider, for any reason, you are probably not ready for this level of oral hygiene.

    I'm A Stranger Here Myself

  • While all these products are designed to cater to particular consumer niches, they end up duping the brain into believing that picking a floss is a high-stakes game, since it's so damn hard.

    Wired Top Stories

  • Instead of realizing that picking a floss is an easy decision, I confuse the array of options and excess of information with importance, which then leads my brain to conclude that this decision is worth lots of time and attention.

    Wired Top Stories

  • Gass - which rhymes with "floss" - has overhauled the identity of Seattle's Best, making it big and bold and completely separate from Starbucks.

    The Seattle Times

  • And some farmers do cultivate milkweed for its soft, silky floss, which is used commercially as a hypoallergenic filler in pillows, comforters and jacket linings.

    undefined

  • It's a bit thicker than normal dental floss, which is nice.

    Tynan | Life Outside the Box

  • i fell in love with the dmc satin floss, which is rayon instead of the usual cotton.

    Archive 2008-12-01

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Comments

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  • Really fascinating to observe the complete changeover in meaning of this word in the past century, from geography and botany to hygiene. The full sets of definitions by American Heritage and Century have almost no overlap. It would be very interesting to trace the semantic shifts more carefully, but at the moment all I can observe is (a) there used to be a mill on one of them and (b) TMItter.

    January 9, 2012

  • featherthread

    August 25, 2009

  • Hate to break it to you, but your dentist can probably tell. ;-)

    August 20, 2007

  • Jeeez, now the beans are spilled!!

    August 19, 2007

  • Stuff I tell my dentist I use regularly, but I really don't.

    August 18, 2007