One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1mass noun A strong-smelling reddish-brown substance which is secreted by the male musk deer for scent-marking and is an important ingredient in perfumery.
- ‘The preference for this specific cologne may have something to do with one particular ingredient: musk.’
- ‘In the sixteenth century, for example, pungent animal scents such as musk and civet were very popular.’
- ‘This updated version has less musk an provides more emphasis on the fruit-based top notes.’
- ‘In China, these deer are now bred in captivity so that their musk can be harvested.’
- ‘Even the lightest, most flowery perfumes contain a trace of musk.’
2A relative of the monkey flower, formerly cultivated for a musky fragrance which has been lost in the development of modern varieties.
Genus Mimulus, family Scrophulariaceae: several species, in particular M. moschatus
- ‘With two-thirds of an acre to tend, I stopped growing high-maintenance hybrid teas and turned to rugosas and hybrid musks - they're much easier and very satisfying alternatives.’
Late Middle English: from late Latin muscus, from Persian mušk, perhaps from Sanskrit muṣka ‘scrotum’ (because of the similarity in shape of the sac on the abdomen of a male musk deer in which musk is produced).
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