Definition of nankeen in English:



mass noun
  • 1A yellowish cotton cloth.

    ‘a waistcoat and knee breeches of nankeen’
    • ‘By 1785 types of cotton fabric generally available included corduroys, jeans, nankeens, erminetts, thicksets, corded tabby and jeanette.’
    • ‘The Oneida was absent seventeen months, and returned with a rich cargo of teas, silks, and nankeens, so profitable that it was talked of in the counting-rooms of all our ports.’
    • ‘Back in New Haven in July 1799 the cargo of Chinese goods (tea, nankeen, silk, and porcelain) realized more than $200,000 for the investors.’
    • ‘A waitress neatly dressed in traditional Chinese nankeen jacket at Tianle Restaurant serves ganshao luyou, spicy perch.’
    • ‘Suspended below this, clad in blue jacket, white waistcoat and nankeen pantaloons, and waving a silk French tricolour, stood Garnerin in a small basket.’
    1. 1.1nankeenshistorical Trousers made of nankeen.
      • ‘Gilded youths ride in the Bois, wearing yellow, brown or scarlet frockcoats and tight-fitting white nankeens.’
      • ‘Long-backed, thin, ‘lank as a leafless elm,’ a New England coach driver might look as though a high wind would blow him away, yet he would wear nankeens and low shoes in winter weather, and was not fragile but lusty.’
      • ‘Besides, a goat might butt Peregrine - tumble him, with his chaste nankeens, his sherry-colour body-coat, and his certainties into the scuppers.’
    2. 1.2archaic The yellowish-buff colour of nankeen.


Mid 18th century: from the name of the city of Nanking (see Nanjing), where it was first made.