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

  • noun A fine lustrous fiber composed mainly of fibroin and produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons, especially the strong, elastic, fibrous secretion of silkworms used to make thread and fabric.
  • noun Thread or fabric made from this fiber.
  • noun A garment made from this fabric.
  • noun A silky filamentous material spun by a spider or an insect such as a webspinner.
  • noun A silky filamentous material produced by a plant, such as the styles forming a tuft on an ear of corn.
  • noun The brightly colored identifying garments of a jockey or harness driver.
  • adjective Composed of or similar to the fiber or the fabric silk.
  • intransitive verb To develop silk. Used of corn.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To be in course of earing: said of growing Indian corn.
  • noun A fine soft thread produced chiefly by the larvæ of various bombycid moths, especially of Bombyx (Sericaria) mori, known as silkworms, feeding on the leaves of the mulberry and several other trees. (See Bombyx and silkworm, and compare gut, 4.)
  • noun A similar thread or fiber spun by various other insects, especially some spiders; a kind of cobweb or gossamer. Some such webs are lustrous, and may be reeled like true silk. See Nephila, and cut under silk-spider.
  • noun Cloth made of silk; by extension, a garment made of such cloth.
  • noun The mass of long filiform styles of the female flower of maize: so called from their resemblance in the unripe state to silk in fineness and softness.
  • noun The silky down in the pod of the milkweed (hence also called silk-weed).
  • noun The silkiness or silky luster often observed in the sapphire or ruby, due to the inclusion of microscopic crystals between the crystalline layers of the gem. The silk is visible only on what would be the pyramid faces of the crystals.
  • Made of silk; silken: as, a silk dress; silk stockings.
  • Silk-like; silky.
  • A king's or queen's counsel.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The fine, soft thread produced by various species of caterpillars in forming the cocoons within which the worm is inclosed during the pupa state, especially that produced by the larvæ of Bombyx mori.
  • noun Hence, thread spun, or cloth woven, from the above-named material.
  • noun That which resembles silk, as the filiform styles of the female flower of maize.
  • noun silk as it is wound off from the cocoons, and before it is manufactured.
  • noun a cottony substance enveloping the seeds of the silk-cotton tree.
  • noun (Bot.) a name for several tropical trees of the genera Bombax and Eriodendron, and belonging to the order Bombaceæ. The trees grow to an immense size, and have their seeds enveloped in a cottony substance, which is used for stuffing cushions, but can not be spun.
  • noun (Bot.) A similar tree (Calliandra trinervia) of Peru.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a breed of domestic fowls having silky plumage.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a gland which secretes the material of silk, as in spider or a silkworm; a sericterium.
  • noun [Eng.] the distinctive robe of a barrister who has been appointed king's or queen's counsel; hence, the counsel himself. Such a one has precedence over mere barristers, who wear stuff gowns.
  • noun (Bot.) a kind of grass (Stipa comata) of the Western United States, which has very long silky awns. The name is also sometimes given to various species of the genera Aqave and Yucca.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the adult moth of any silkworm. See Silkworm.
  • noun a coarse, rough-woven silk, like plush, but with a stiffer nap.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a large spider (Nephila plumipes), native of the Southern United States, remarkable for the large quantity of strong silk it produces and for the great disparity in the sizes of the sexes.
  • noun one who twists or spins silk, and prepares it for weaving.
  • noun (Bot.) an Asiatic leguminous tree (Albizzia Julibrissin) with finely bipinnate leaves, and large flat pods; -- so called because of the abundant long silky stamens of its blossoms. Also called silk flower.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Same as Silk gland, above.
  • noun (Bot.) a climbing plant (Periploca Græca) of the Milkweed family, having a silky tuft on the seeds. It is native in Southern Europe.

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

  • noun uncountable A fine fiber excreted by the silkworm or other arthropod (such as a spider).
  • noun uncountable A fine, soft cloth woven from silk fibers.
  • noun The gown worn by a Senior (i.e. Queen's/King's) Counsel
  • noun colloquial a Senior (i.e. Queen's/King's) Counsel
  • adjective Made of silk

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

  • noun a fabric made from the fine threads produced by certain insect larvae
  • noun animal fibers produced by silkworms and other larvae that spin cocoons and by most spiders


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

[Middle English, from Old English sioloc, probably of Slavic origin (akin to Old Church Slavonic šelkŭ), ultimately from Greek sērikon, neuter of sērikos, silken; see serge.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English sioloc, seolc. The immediate source is uncertain; it probably reached English via the Baltic trade routes (cognates in Old Norse silki, Russian шёлк (šolk), obsolete Lithuanian zilkaĩ), all ultimately from Late Latin sēricus, neuter of Latin sericus, from Ancient Greek σηρικός (serikos), ultimately from an Oriental language (represented now by e.g. Chinese  (sī, "silk")). Compare Seres.


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  • also n. a Q.C.

    (take silk: become a Q.C.)

    August 7, 2008

  • QC = Queen's Counsel, an overstuffed barrister.

    August 7, 2008

  • They only make SCs these days.

    August 7, 2008

  • How stuffed are they?

    October 26, 2008

  • "The Chinese were indeed the first people in the world to make silk, possibly as early as 4000 BCE, if an ivory carving with a silkworm motif on it, from the Hemudu site in Zhejiang, constitutes proof of silk manufacture. According to the Hangzhou Silk Museum, the earliest excavated fragment of silk dates to 3650 BCE and is from Henan Province in central China. Skeptical of such an early date, experts outside of China believe the earliest examples of silk date to 2850-2650 BCE, the time of the Liangzhu culture (3310-2250 BCE) in the lower Yangzi valley.

    "In the first century CE, when the Periplus was written, the Romans did not know how silk was made. Pliny the Elder (CE 23-79) reported that silk cloth had made its way to Rome by the first century. ...

    "China was not the only manufacturer in silk in Pliny's day. As early as 2500 BCE, the ancient Indians wove silk from the wild silk moth, a different species of silkworm than the one the Chinese had domesticated. In contrast, the Indians collected broken cocoons that remained after the silk worms had matured into moths, broken through their cocoons, and flown away. Similarly, in antiquity, the Greek island of Cos in the eastern Aegean produced Coan silk, which was also spun from the broken cocoons of wild silk moths. Early on, the Chinese had learned to boil the cocoons, which killed the silk worms, leaving the cocoons intact and allowing the thread to be removed in long, continuous strands. Even so, Chinese silk cannot always be distinguished from wild silk, and it is possible that Pliny may have described Indian or Coan, not Chinese, silk."

    --Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2012), 19

    December 30, 2016