from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

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

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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).
  • noun One of the byssi, a name formerly given by botanists to a heterogeneous collection of filamentous cryptogamic plants.
  • noun 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A cloth of exceedingly fine texture, used by the ancients. It is disputed whether it was of cotton, linen, or silk.
  • noun (Zoöl.) 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.
  • noun (Bot.) An obsolete name for certain fungi composed of slender threads.
  • noun Asbestus.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun The stipe or stem of some fungi which are particularly thin and thread-like.

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

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


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

[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.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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).



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  • "Sea silk sounds like the stuff of legend. Harvested from rare clams, this thread flashes gold in the sunlight, weighs almost nothing, and comes with a heavy load of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misinformation. But the fiber itself is no myth. Its flaxen strands come from Pinna nobilis, or the pen shell, a giant Mediterranean mollusk that measures up to a yard in length. To attach themselves to rocks or the seafloor, some clams secrete proteins that, upon contact with seawater, harden into a silky filament called byssus. The byssus of the pen shell makes sea silk, the world’s rarest thread."


    September 14, 2017