Definitions

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

  • n. Lumps of pure silver bearing the stamp of a banker or an assayer and formerly used in China as money.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An ingot of silver, shaped like a shoe, once used as currency in China.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Silver, pounded into ingots of the shape of a shoe, and used as currency. The most common weight is about one pound troy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Properly, an epithet meaning ‘pure,’ applied to the uncoined lumps of silver used by the Chinese as money, but frequently used by itself, in the sense of ‘fine (uncoined) silver.’ See sycee-silver.

Etymologies

Chinese (Cantonese) saìsz, fine silk (so called because the pure silver can be spun into fine threads), equivalent to Chinese (Mandarin) , thin, fine + Chinese (Mandarin) , silk, thread.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Said to be from a Chinese word for fine silk, because if pure the silver may be drawn out into fine threads. (Wiktionary)

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