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”) and to have initially referred to a period of warm weather in late autumn when geese were eaten — compare Middle Scots goesomer, goe-summer (“summery weather in late autumn; St Martin's summer”) and dialectal English go-harvest, both later connected in folk-etymology to go) — and to have been transferred to cobwebs because they were frequent then or because they were likened to goose-down. 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". Weekley notes that both the webs and the weather have fantastical names in most European languages: compare German Altweibersommer (“Indian summer; cobwebs, gossamer”, literally “old wives' summer”) and other terms listed there.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈɡɒ.sə.mə/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈɡɑ.sə.mɚ/
Audio (AU) (file)
- A fine film or strand as of cobwebs, floating in the air or caught on bushes, etc.
- c. 1591–1595 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Romeo and Ivliet”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene vi]:
- A lover may bestride the gossamer
That idles in the wanton summer air,
And yet not fall; so light is vanity.
- 1886 May 1 – July 31, Robert Louis Stevenson, chapter 22, in Kidnapped, being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: […], London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 1886, →OCLC, page 222:
- 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.
- A soft, sheer fabric.
- Anything delicate, light and flimsy.
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
- Tenuous, light, filmy or delicate.
- 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.
- “gọ̄s-sŏmer, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
- “gossamer”, in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
- “gossamer”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.
- “gossamer”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
- Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “gossamer”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
- ^ 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.
- ^ “goesomer, n.” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh: Scottish Language Dictionaries: “”.
- ^ 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.
- ^ Walter W. Skeat, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (2013 edition), page 246
- ^ Ernest Weekley, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1967), volume 1, page 653