One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Usually treated as plural. The coarser parts of flax or hemp; = "tow". Sometimes: specifically the coarsest grade of tow.
Old English; earliest use found in Corpus Glossary. Apparently cognate with early modern Dutch hērde, heerde, and further with West Frisian hjidde, East Frisian (Saterland) hēde, North Frisian (Sylt) Hiiđ, Middle Dutch hēde (Dutch hede, (Friesland) hiede), Middle Low German hēde (German regional (Low German) hēde, hēden, heen; goes to German Hede), and (with assimilation of consonants and apparently with different ablaut grade) Old Icelandic haddr woman's long hair, as well as (with different suffixation) Old High German har, haro (Middle High German har, German (now rare) Haar), Old Icelandic hǫrr, all in sense ‘flax’, and perhaps Old Frisian hēr, in uncertain sense (perhaps ‘flax’), and further with the Indo-European base of Early Irish cír comb, rake, Old Church Slavonic česati to scratch, to tickle, Old Russian česati to scratch, to comb (Russian česat′), Lithuanian kastis (reflexive) to dig, kasyti to scratch gently, and perhaps also of Hellenistic Greek κέσκεον coarser parts of flax or hemp.
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