gossamer

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English gossomer, gosesomer, gossummer (attested since around 1300, and only in reference to webs or other light things), usually thought to derive from gos (goose) + somer (summer)[1] and to have initially referred to a period of warm weather in late autumn when geese were eaten[2][3][4][5] — compare Middle Scots goesomer, goe-summer (summery weather in late autumn; St Martin's summer)[1] and dialectal English go-harvest,[6] both later connected in folk-etymology to go)[5][7][8] — and to have been transferred to cobwebs because they were frequent then or because they were likened to goose-down.[2][3][5][4] Skeat says that in Craven the webs were called summer-goose, and compares Scots and dialectal English use of summer-colt in reference to "exhalations seen rising from the ground in hot weather".[9] Weekley notes that both the webs and the weather have fantastical names in most European languages:[10] compare German Altweibersommer (Indian summer; cobwebs, gossamer, literally old wives' summer) and other terms listed there.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

gossamer (countable and uncountable, plural gossamers)

  1. A fine film or strand as of cobwebs, floating in the air or caught on bushes, etc.
    • c. 1594, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 6,[1]
      A lover may bestride the gossamer
      That idles in the wanton summer air,
      And yet not fall; so light is vanity.
    • 1697, John Dryden (translator), Georgics Book 1, line 453, inThe Works of Virgil, London: Jacob Tonson, p. 65,[2]
      The filmy Gossamer now flitts no more,
    • 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped, London: Cassell, Chapter 22, p. 222,[3]
      I had been dead-heavy before, and now I felt a kind of dreadful lightness, which would not suffer me to walk. I drifted like a gossamer; the ground seemed to me a cloud, the hills a feather-weight, the air to have a current, like a running burn, which carried me to and fro.
    • 1972, Richard Adams, Watership Down, Penguin, 1974, Part 2, Chapter 26, p. 233,[4]
      The dew and gossamer had dried early from the grass
  2. A soft, sheer fabric.
    • 1894, Kate Chopin, “A Lady of Bayou St. John” in Bayou Folk, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, p. 306,[5]
      Madame wiped the picture with her gossamer handkerchief and impulsively pressed a tender kiss upon the painted canvas.
    • 1947, Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, New York: Signet, Scene 5, p. 84,[6]
      She takes a large, gossamer scarf from the trunk and drapes it about her shoulders.
    • 2013, Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers, New York: Scribner, Chapter 14, p. 231,[7]
      a circle of popes or maybe bishops in white gossamer robes
  3. Anything delicate, light and flimsy.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[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.

Adjective[edit]

gossamer (comparative more gossamer, superlative most gossamer)

  1. Tenuous, light, filmy or delicate.
    • 1845, Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat” in Tales, New York: Wiley and Putnam, p. 37,[8]
      There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
    • 1857, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Daisy's Necklace: And What Came of It
      The heaven was spangled with tremulous stars, and at the horizon the clouds hung down in gossamer folds—God's robe trailing in the sea!
    • 1922, Michael Arlen, “Ep./1/2”, in “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days:
      He walked. To the corner of Hamilton Place and Picadilly, and there stayed for a while, for it is a romantic station by night. The vague and careless rain looked like threads of gossamer silver passing across the light of the arc-lamps.
    • 1997, Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, New York: Random House, Chapter 2, p. 83,[9]
      A gossamer blanket of coaldust floated down like a dirty blessing and gently smothered the traffic.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 gọ̄s-sŏmer, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 gossamer” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
  3. 3.0 3.1 gossamer”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.
  4. 4.0 4.1 gossamer”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “gossamer”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  6. ^ Joseph Wright, editor (1900), “GO-HARVEST”, in The English Dialect Dictionary: [], volume II (D–G), London: Henry Frowde, [], publisher to the English Dialect Society, []; New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, OCLC 81937840.
  7. ^ goesomer, n.” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh: Scottish Language Dictionaries: “”.
  8. ^ Joseph Wright, editor (1900), “GO-SUMMER”, in The English Dialect Dictionary: [], volume II (D–G), London: Henry Frowde, [], publisher to the English Dialect Society, []; New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, OCLC 81937840.
  9. ^ Walter W. Skeat, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (2013 edition), page 246
  10. ^ Ernest Weekley, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1967), volume 1, page 653