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A mussel (genus Mytilus), attached to a rock by its byssus (filaments)


From New Latin byssus (sea silk), from Latin byssus (fine cotton or cotton stuff, silk), from Ancient Greek βύσσος (bússos, a very fine yellowish flax and the linen woven from it), from Hebrew בּוּץ (búts), Aramaic בּוּצָא (būṣā).



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byssus (usually uncountable, plural byssuses)

  1. An exceptionally fine and valuable fibre or cloth of ancient times. Originally used for fine flax and linens, the word was later extended to fine cottons, silks, and sea silk.
  2. The long fine silky filaments excreted by several mollusks (particularly Pinna nobilis) by which they attach themselves to the sea bed, and from which sea silk is manufactured.
  3. (mycology) The stipe or stem of some fungi which are particularly thin and thread-like.

Related terms[edit]



  • The Compact edition of the Oxford English dictionary: complete text reproduced micrographically and Supplement. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. 1987
  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged) 1976. G. & C. Merriam Co.



From Ancient Greek βύσσος (bússos, a very fine yellowish flax and the linen woven from it), from Hebrew בּוּץ (búts), Aramaic בּוש (bus).



byssus m (genitive byssī); second declension

  1. byssus


Second declension.

Case Singular Plural
nominative byssus byssī
genitive byssī byssōrum
dative byssō byssīs
accusative byssum byssōs
ablative byssō byssīs
vocative bysse byssī


  • byssus in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • byssus in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition, 1883–1887)
  • byssus in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • byssus in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin