noun, plural cal·i·coes, cal·i·cos.

a plain-woven cotton cloth printed with a figured pattern, usually on one side.
British. plain white cotton cloth.
an animal having a spotted or particolored coat.
Obsolete. a figured cotton cloth from India.


made of calico.
resembling printed calico; spotted or mottled.

Origin of calico

1495–1505; short for Calico cloth, variant of Calicut cloth, named after city in India which orig. exported it Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for calico

material, goods, cotton, stuff, bolt, weave, tissue, twill, calico, textiles

Examples from the Web for calico

Contemporary Examples of calico

Historical Examples of calico

  • She untied the bit of calico string with fingers that shook from excitement.

  • She put one trembling hand to the calico apron about her head.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • Such is said to have been the origin of roller printing on calico.


    Samuel Smiles

  • He led the way to the settee by the calico and dress goods counter.

    The Rise of Roscoe Paine

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • She wore a calico apron and had not found time to do her hair since morning.

    The Wall Street Girl

    Frederick Orin Bartlett

British Dictionary definitions for calico


noun plural -coes or -cos

a white or unbleached cotton fabric with no printed design
mainly US a coarse printed cotton fabric
(modifier) made of calico

Word Origin for calico

C16: based on Calicut, town in India
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 calico

1530s, kalyko, corruption of Calicut (modern Kozhikode), seaport on Malabar coast of India, where Europeans first obtained it. In 16c. it was second only to Goa among Indian commercial ports for European trade. Extended to animal colorings suggestive of printed calicos in 1807, originally of horses.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper