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[silk] /sɪlk/
the soft, lustrous fiber obtained as a filament from the cocoon of the silkworm.
thread made from this fiber.
cloth made from this fiber.
a garment of this cloth.
a gown of such material worn distinctively by a King's or Queen's Counsel at the English bar.
silks, the blouse and peaked cap, considered together, worn by a jockey or sulky driver in a race.
Informal. a parachute, especially one opened aloft.
any fiber or filamentous matter resembling silk, as a filament produced by certain spiders, the thread of a mollusk, or the like.
the hairlike styles on an ear of corn.
British Informal.
  1. a King's or Queen's Counsel.
  2. any barrister of high rank.
made of silk.
resembling silk; silky.
of or relating to silk.
verb (used without object)
(of corn) to be in the course of developing silk.
hit the silk, Slang. to parachute from an aircraft; bail out.
take silk, British. to become a Queen's or King's Counsel.
Origin of silk
before 900; Middle English (noun); Old English sioloc, seol(o)c (cognate with Old Norse silki), by uncertain transmission < Greek sērikón silk, noun use of neuter of sērikós silken, literally, Chinese, derivative of Sêres the Chinese (Russian shëlk, OPruss silkas (genitive) “silk” appear to be < Gmc); cf. seric-
Related forms
silklike, adjective
half-silk, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for silk
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British Dictionary definitions for silk


the very fine soft lustrous fibre produced by a silkworm to make its cocoon
  1. thread or fabric made from this fibre
  2. (as modifier): a silk dress
a garment made of this
a very fine fibre produced by a spider to build its web, nest, or cocoon
the tuft of long fine styles on an ear of maize
  1. the gown worn by a Queen's (or King's) Counsel
  2. (informal) a Queen's (or King's) Counsel
  3. take silk, to become a Queen's (or King's) Counsel
(intransitive) (US & Canadian) (of maize) to develop long hairlike styles
Derived Forms
silklike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English sioluc; compare Old Norse silki, Greek sērikon, Korean sir; all ultimately from Chinese ssǔ silk
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
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Word Origin and History for silk

c.1300, from Old English seoloc, sioloc "silk, silken cloth," from Latin sericum "silk," plural serica "silken garments, silks," literally "Seric stuff," neuter of Sericus, from Greek Serikos "silken; pertaining to the Seres," an oriental people of Asia from whom the Greeks got silks. Western cultivation began 552 C.E., when agents from Byzantium impersonating monks smuggled silkworms and mulberry leaves out of China.

Chinese si "silk," Manchurian sirghe, Mongolian sirkek have been compared to this and the people name in Greek might be a rendering via Mongolian of the Chinese word for "silk," but this is uncertain.

Also found in Old Norse as silki but not elsewhere in Germanic. The more common Germanic form is represented by Middle English say, from Old French seie, with Spanish seda, Italian seta, Dutch zijde, German Seide is from Medieval Latin seta "silk," perhaps elliptical for seta serica, or else a particular use of seta "bristle, hair" (see seta (n.)).

According to some sources [Buck, OED], the use of -l- instead of -r- in the Balto-Slavic form of the word (cf. Old Church Slavonic šelku, Lithuanian šilkai) passed into English via the Baltic trade and may reflect a Chinese dialectal form, or a Slavic alteration of the Greek word. But the Slavic linguist Vasmer dismisses that, based on the initial sh- in the Slavic words, and suggests the Slavic words are from Scandinavian rather than the reverse.

As an adjective from mid-14c. In reference to the "hair" of corn, 1660s, American English. Figurative use of silk-stocking (n.) is from 1590s; as an adjective meaning "wealthy" it is attested from 1798, American English (silk stockings, especially worn by men, being regarded as extravagant and reprehensible, indicative of luxurious habits). Silk-screen (n.) is first attested 1930; as a verb from 1961. Silk road so called in English from 1931.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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silk in Science
  1. A fiber produced by silkworms to form cocoons. Silk is strong, flexible, and fibrous, and is essentially a long continuous strand of protein. It is widely used to make thread and fabric.

  2. A substance similar to the silk of the silkworm but produced by other insect larvae or by spiders to spin webs.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for silk



A white person: So did the silks on the Knapp Commission ever ask about the rate of drug busts? (1960s+ Black)

Related Terms

hit the silk

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with silk
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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