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  1. a piece of fabric made of plaited or woven rushes, straw, hemp, or similar fiber, or of some other pliant material, as rubber, used as a protective covering on a floor or other surface, to wipe the shoes on, etc.
  2. a smaller piece of material, often ornamental, set under a dish of food, a lamp, vase, etc.
  3. Sports.
    1. the padded canvas covering the entire floor of a wrestling ring, for protecting the contestants from injury when thrown.
    2. a thick pad placed on the floor for the protection of tumblers and others engaged in gymnastic sports.
  4. a thickly growing or thick and tangled mass, as of hair or weeds.
  5. a sack made of matting, as for coffee or sugar.
  6. a slablike footing of concrete, especially one for an entire building.
  7. a heavy mesh reinforcement for a concrete slab.
verb (used with object), mat·ted, mat·ting.
  1. to cover with or as if with mats or matting.
  2. to form into a mat, as by interweaving.
verb (used without object), mat·ted, mat·ting.
  1. to become entangled; form tangled masses.
  1. go to the mat, to contend or struggle in a determined or unyielding way: The president is going to the mat with Congress over the proposed budget cuts.

Origin of mat1

before 900; Middle English, Old English matte < Late Latin matta mat of rushes < Semitic; compare Hebrew mittāh bed
Related formsmat·less, adjective


  1. a piece of cardboard or other material placed over or under a drawing, painting, photograph, etc., to serve as a frame or provide a border between the picture and the frame.
verb (used with object), mat·ted, mat·ting.
  1. to provide (a picture) with a mat.

Origin of mat2

1835–40; apparently mat1, influenced by matte1


adjective, noun, verb, mat·ted, mat·ting.
  1. matte1.


noun Printing.
  1. the intaglio, usually of papiermâché, impressed from type or a cut, from which a stereotype plate is cast.
  2. matrix(def 8).

Origin of mat4

First recorded in 1920–25; shortened form of matrix


or mat, matt

  1. having a dull or lusterless surface: matte paint; a matte complexion; a photograph with a matte finish.
  1. a dull or dead surface, often slightly roughened, as on metals, paint, paper, or glass.
  2. a tool for producing such a surface.
  3. Metallurgy. an unfinished metallic product of the smelting of certain sulfide ores, especially those of copper.
  4. Movies. matte shot.
verb (used with object), mat·ted, mat·ting.
  1. to finish with a matte surface.

Origin of matte1

1640–50; < French mat (masculine), matte (feminine), Old French < Late Latin mattus moist, soft, weak, perhaps < *maditus, derivative of Latin madēre to be wet


  1. matins.
  2. maturity.


  1. Master of Arts in Teaching.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mat

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Say, he told me they've got a mat at the door with 'Welcome' on it—in letters three feet high.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Put him into a mat, and roll him up in it without killing him.

    Aino Folk-Tales

    Basil Hall Chamberlain

  • The servants put the rascal into the mat, and tied it round tight.

    Aino Folk-Tales

    Basil Hall Chamberlain

  • Then the rascal put him naked into the mat, and tied it round tight.

    Aino Folk-Tales

    Basil Hall Chamberlain

  • Nor did she dream that he had made a mat of his glory for her to walk upon.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

British Dictionary definitions for mat


  1. a thick flat piece of fabric used as a floor covering, a place to wipe one's shoes, etc
  2. a smaller pad of material used to protect a surface from the heat, scratches, etc, of an object placed upon it
  3. a large piece of thick padded material put on the floor as a surface for wrestling, judo, or gymnastic sports
  4. NZ a Māori cloak
  5. go back to the mat NZ to abandon urban civilization
  6. any surface or mass that is densely interwoven or tangleda mat of grass and weeds
  7. the solid part of a lace design
    1. a heavy net of cable or rope laid over a blasting site to prevent the scatter of debris
    2. a heavy mesh of reinforcement in a concrete slab
    3. (esp US) a steel or concrete raft serving as a footing to support a post
  8. civil engineering short for mattress (def. 3)
verb mats, matting or matted
  1. to tangle or weave or become tangled or woven into a dense mass
  2. (tr) to cover with a mat or mats
Derived Formsmatless, adjective

Word Origin

Old English matte; related to Old High German matta


  1. a border of cardboard, cloth, etc, placed around a picture to act as a frame or as a contrast between picture and frame
  2. a surface, as on metal or paint
  1. having a dull, lustreless, or roughened surface
verb mats, matting or matted (tr)
  1. to furnish (a picture) with a mat
  2. to give (a surface) a mat finish
Also (for senses 2, 4): matt

Word Origin

C17: from French, literally: dead; see checkmate


  1. printing informal short for matrix (def. 5)


abbreviation for
  1. matinée


  1. an impure fused material consisting of metal sulphides produced during the smelting of a sulphide ore

Word Origin

C19: from French


  1. films television a mask used to blank out part of an image so that another image can be superimposed
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 mat


loosely joined natural materials used as bedding, etc., Old English matte, from Late Latin matta "mat made of rushes" (4c.), probably from Punic or Phoenician matta (cf. Hebrew mittah "bed, couch"). Meaning "tangled mass" is from 1835. That of "piece of padded flooring used in gymnastics or wrestling" is attested from 1892; hence figurative phrase go to the mat "do battle" (1910). The Latin word also is the source of German Matte, matze; Dutch mat, Italian matta. French natte "mat, matting" is from Late Latin secondary form natta (cf. napkin).


1640s, "lusterless, dull" (of a color or surface), from French mat "dull, dead surface," from Old French mat "beaten down, withered, afflicted, dejected; dull," which is perhaps from Latin mattus "maudlin with drink," from madere "to be wet or sodden, be drunk," from PIE root *mad- "to be wet, drip" (see mast (n.2)). Or the French word might represent a transferred use from chess of mater "to checkmate, defeat," from Arabic (see mate (v.2)).


"sheet of backing material," 1845, from French mat "dull surface or finish" (15c.), noun use of Old French mat (adj.); see mat (adj.).


early 15c., "to make mats," from mat (n.1). From 1540s as "to provide with mats, to cover with mats;" meaning "to become tangled" is from 1570s. Related: Matted; matting.



"backing for a picture," 1845, from French; see mat (n.2).



variant of mat (n.2).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with mat


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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