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floss

[flaws, flos]
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noun Also called floss silk (for defs 1, 3).
  1. the cottony fiber yielded by the silk-cotton tree.
  2. silk filaments with little or no twist, used in weaving as brocade or in embroidery.
  3. any silky, filamentous matter, as the silk of corn.
  4. dental floss.
verb (used without object)
  1. to use dental floss on the teeth.
verb (used with object)
  1. to clean (the teeth) with dental floss.

Origin of floss

1750–60; probably < French floche, as in soie floche floss silk, Old French flosche down, velvet pile (of uncertain origin)
Related formsfloss·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for floss

floss

noun
  1. the mass of fine silky fibres obtained from cotton and similar plants
  2. any similar fine silky material, such as the hairlike styles and stigmas of maize or the fibres prepared from silkworm cocoons
  3. untwisted silk thread used in embroidery, etc
  4. See dental floss
verb
  1. (tr) to clean (between one's teeth) with dental floss

Word Origin

C18: perhaps from Old French flosche down
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for floss

n.

"rough silk," 1759, perhaps from French floche "tuft of wool" (16c.), from Old French floc "tuft, lock," from Latin floccus "tuft of wool." Or from an unrecorded Old English or Old Norse word from the root found in Dutch flos "plush" (17c.). Cf. the surname Flossmonger, attested 1314, which might represent a direct borrowing from Scandinavian or Low German. In "The Mill on the Floss" the word is the proper name of a fictitious river in the English Midlands.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper