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.’
- ‘Not only dyeing with purpura juice, but also with kermes was common in Homer's day.’
- ‘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.’
2The scale insect from which kermes is obtained, forming galls on the kermes oak.
Kermes illicis, family Eriococcidae, suborder Homoptera
Late 16th century (denoting the kermes oak): from French kermès, from Arabic qirmiz; related to crimson.
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