One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1mass noun A red dye obtained from the crushed dried bodies of a female scale insect, used for colouring fabrics and manuscripts.
- ‘Traditional red colourings include kermes and cochineal, both of which are pigments made by crushing masses of tiny insects.’
- ‘In medieval color symbolism, red often connoted sin, but it also indicated wealth, especially in trecento Italy, where woolen cloth dyed in kermes was the most expensive.’
- ‘Exports from the city of Arcadia included wool, wax, silk, and kermes, destined for Venice via Zakynthos.’
- ‘Not only dyeing with purpura juice, but also with kermes was common in Homer's day.’
2The scale insect from which kermes is obtained, forming berry-like galls on the kermes oak.
Late 16th century (denoting the kermes oak): from French kermès, from Arabic qirmiz; related to crimson.
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