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[tas-uh l] /ˈtæs əl/
a pendent ornament consisting commonly of a bunch of threads, small cords, or other strands hanging from a roundish knob or head, used on clothing, in jewelry, on curtains, etc.
something resembling this, as the inflorescence of certain plants, especially that at the summit of a stalk of corn.
verb (used with object), tasseled, tasseling or (especially British) tasselled, tasselling.
to furnish or adorn with tassels.
to form into a tassel or tassels.
to remove the tassel from (growing corn) in order to improve the crop.
verb (used without object), tasseled, tasseling or (especially British) tasselled, tasselling.
(of corn) to put forth tassels (often followed by out).
Origin of tassel
1250-1300; Middle English (noun) < Old French tas(s)el fastening for cloak < Vulgar Latin *tassellus, blend of Latin tessella (diminutive of tessera die for gaming) and taxillus (diminutive of tālus die for gaming). See tessellate, talus1
Related forms
tasseler; especially British, tasseller, noun
tasselly; especially British, tasselly, adjective
detassel, verb (used with object), detasseled, detasseling or (especially British) detasselled, detasselling.
untasseled, adjective
untasselled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tassel
Historical Examples
  • This tassel is for catching the blood and preventing it from greasing the handle.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • Before the corn was in tassel, he had been laid beside Benny.

    Dust Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius
  • It was white cloth-covered, and trimmed with cord and tassel.

  • Do you mean Elizabeth March, who got the tassel prize this year?

    Miss Pat at School

    Pemberton Ginther
  • With sharp scissors trim the edge of the tassel which now is complete.

  • This knot will be in the ball part of the tassel and will help to make it round.

  • It has a leather strap and a tassel and a knob that one can suck.

  • The kite is held at such a height that the tassel just skims the water.


    William Graham Sumner
  • Taking up the cord of his dressing-gown, she pulled it by its tassel.

    Fraternity John Galsworthy
  • The pendent ornament called a tassel is a diminutive of Mid.

British Dictionary definitions for tassel


a tuft of loose threads secured by a knot or ornamental knob, used to decorate soft furnishings, clothes, etc
anything resembling this tuft, esp the tuft of stamens at the tip of a maize inflorescence
verb -sels, -selling, -selled (US) -sels, -seling, -seled
(transitive) to adorn with a tassel or tassels
(intransitive) (of maize) to produce stamens in a tuft
(transitive) to remove the tassels from
Derived Forms
tasselly, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, from Vulgar Latin tassellus (unattested), changed from Latin taxillus a small die, from tālus gaming die
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 tassel

c.1300, "mantle fastener," from Old French tassel "a fastening, clasp" (mid-12c.), from Vulgar Latin *tassellus, said to be from Latin taxillus "small die or cube," a diminutive of talus "knucklebone, ankle" (see talus (n.1)). But OED finds this doubtful and calls attention to the variant form tossel and suggests association with toss (v.). Meaning "hanging bunch of small cords" is first recorded late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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