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From Middle English cloth, clath, from Old English clāþ (cloth, clothes, covering, sail), from Proto-Germanic *klaiþą (garment), from Proto-Indo-European *gleyt- (to cling to, cleave, stick). Cognate with Scots clath (cloth), North Frisian klaid (dress, garment), Saterland Frisian Klood (dress, apparel), West Frisian kleed (cloth, article of clothing), Dutch kleed (robe, dress), Low German kleed (dress, garment), German Kleid (gown, dress), Danish klæde (cloth, dress), Norwegian klede, Swedish kläde (cloth), Icelandic klæði (cloth, dressing), Old English clīþan (to adhere, stick). Compare Albanian ngjit (to stick, attach, glue).



cloth (plural cloths or clothes)

  1. (uncountable) A woven fabric such as used in dressing, decorating, cleaning or other practical use.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Lisson Grove Mystery[1]:
      “H'm !” he said, “so, so—it is a tragedy in a prologue and three acts. I am going down this afternoon to see the curtain fall for the third time on what [...] will prove a good burlesque ; but it all began dramatically enough. It was last Saturday […] that two boys, playing in the little spinney just outside Wembley Park Station, came across three large parcels done up in American cloth. […]”
    • 2017, Roger Holden, Manufacturing the Cloth of the World, →ISBN, page 26:
      There were other types of looms for producing various specialised types of cloth, for example fustians and velvets, but there is not space here to discuss these.
  2. (countable) A piece of cloth used for a particular purpose.
    • 1824, The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction:
      The first room the people enter was formerly the Presence Chamber, which is hung completely with black, and at the r-end a cloth of estate, with a chair of estate standing upon the Haut-place under the state. From thence you pass to a second large room, which was the Privy Chamber, all completely hung with black, and a cloth of estate at the upper end, having also a chair of estate upon the Haut-place, under the cloth of estate.
    • 2004, Robin D. Gill, Topsy-turvy 1585, →ISBN:
      The stole is a long scarf-like cloth that hangs around the neck, over the shoulders and down the front of bishops and priests [generally, two-four inches across].
    • 2009, Albert Jackson & ‎David Day, Popular Mechanics Complete Home How-to, →ISBN, page 80:
      Wipe the surface with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits in order to remove the sanding dust, then brush on a full coat of varnish.
  3. (metaphoric) Substance or essence; The whole of something complex.
    • 2001, Sang H. Kim, The Art of Harmony: A Guide to Happiness, →ISBN, page 14:
      . If we look beyond the chaos of each moment, we cannot help seeing that we are but one glorious thread in the cloth of life.
    • 2004, Thomas D. Hamm, The Quakers in America, →ISBN, page 124:
      The disparate threads contained are, in the cloth of a religious society, ready to revolutionize the world and bring the Kingdom of Heaven into its full reality on earth.
    • 2009, John Malcolm Dowling ‎& Chin-Fang Yap, Chronic Poverty in Asia: Causes, Consequences and Policies, →ISBN:
      . The rhythm of life in rural Asia has followed an unchanging pattern from generation to generation and for the chronically poor it is soaked in the cloth of continued deprivation.
    • 2012, R. Tirrell Leonard Jr., In The Murmuring Trees, →ISBN, page 79:
      A wrinkle in the cloth of time, a cry of soft caress and fragrant dreams to weld the metal fabric souls in blends so held in high regards across the lands and sky.
  4. (metaphoric) Appearance; seeming.
    • 2002, Patricia L. Munhall, ‎Ed Madden, ‎& Virginia Macken Fitzsimons, The Emergence of Man Into the 21st Century, →ISBN, page 407:
      Like all cultural realities, contemporary modernism is packed with its own myths, its own largely unrecognized metaphors, its own poetics literally perceived -- or should we say, "misperceived"? -- its own reifications and idiosyncratic distinctions. And it comes to us decorated in the cloth of emancipation, a new freedom that would seem to liberate us from those restraints and bonds that were the excretions of an older mindset, an alien political and social order, a rigid and stultifying hierarchy now perceived as riddled with superstition, arbitrary premise, and false conjunction — in contrast, of course, to the liberated mindset that bespeaks our own age!
    • 2007, Kathy Steffen, First, There Is a River, →ISBN:
      Unbelievably, he smiled through his cracked and bleeding lips. A horrible nightmare cloaked in the cloth of good.
    • 2011, Beth Linker, War's Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America, →ISBN, page 148:
      Not until rehabilitation was wrapped in the cloth of wartime patriotism—a program billed as necessary for the welfare of disabled soldiers—did it receive overwhelming congressional support.
    • 2014, Shara Russell, In the Shadow of Faith, →ISBN:
      After being at your beck and call all these years, he wants a woman, not the consummate teen-ager pretending she's a grownup wrapping her flesh in the cloth of her church.
  5. A form of attire that represents a particular profession or status.
    • 1993, Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, →ISBN, page 185:
      But he could not come in the white cloth of celebration to a burial service, and he could hardly come in the cloth of mourning to celebrate his two decades on the stool.
    • 2004, Alison Dundes Renteln, The Cultural Defense, →ISBN, page 151:
      Wearing the cloth of kings would seem to be an appropriate symbol.
    • 2013, Paul Doherty, The House of Death, →ISBN:
      Occasionally the most fortunate found a jewel, a golden-encrusted dagger, a ring, or some other precious gem which decorated the cloths of glory the Persian chieftains and satraps wore.
    • 2016, Stephen John Goundry, Hot Coals of Fire: The Sanctity of the Ministry, →ISBN:
      The Old Testament Ministers of God, Aaron and his sons, who were the priests, wore special 'cloths of service.' They were dressed in 'holy garments' so that they could stand and offer in the Presence of God, being beautified by them and being enabled through them to perform their sacred duties.
  6. (in idioms) Priesthood, clergy.
    He is a respected man of the cloth.


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Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.