Definition of calico in English:



North American
  • 1Printed cotton fabric.

    [as modifier] ‘a calico dress’
    • ‘What do you suggest I start buying besides denim, gingham, and calico?’
    • ‘Importantly for the English traders, the late Francis Day had noted that the calicos woven by the traders of Madraspatnam were cheaper than the ones that Britishers were procuring.’
    • ‘In the early nineteenth century, as earlier, most British working-class women made their families' clothes, from cotton calicoes for dresses and shirts, and from fustian for trousers and jackets.’
    • ‘He stared at my dress - calico, gathered, tied at the back.’
    • ‘They worked at the many machines powered by turning waterwheels in the factory basements, producing sheetings, calicoes, broadcloths, carpets, and rugs for a growing market.’
    • ‘They all had Christmas presents, too: A rattling toy for Horace, a toy gun for Anders and a pretty dress of calico for Effie.’
    • ‘Colonial New Englanders were also familiar with such floral motifs through imported calicoes and palampores (block-printed and painted cotton bedcovers) imported from India.’
    • ‘The calicoes in no.789 can be dated to the 1840s and 1850s based on motif and color.’
    • ‘More directly to Cantillon's comment on Holland's imports of Indian garments is the matter of calicos (printed cotton textiles), where France banned the production, importation and even the wearing of calicos.’
    • ‘The women liked to wear clothing fashioned from calico and other printed cloth, and silk ribbons became popular hair ornaments.’
    • ‘It continued in textile design, particularly in whitework embroidery and some printed calicoes, into the mid-nineteenth century.’
    • ‘Women wear one-piece calico or cotton dresses, or loose blouses and skirts.’
    • ‘Such a scenario would place the quiltmaker in the vicinity of mills from which she acquired the checks, plaids, twills, glazed cottons and calicoes to make her quilts.’
    • ‘‘India and English chintz in patterns’ was advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette on February 19, 1757, and ‘printed cottons, calicoes, copper plate chintz’ were offered by Isaac and Joseph Paschall in 1762.’
    • ‘The earliest known cotton textiles are from the Indus Valley, and for centuries Indian calicos and muslins were widely traded luxury goods.’
    • ‘The second general circumstance was the rise of virtually new trades because cheaper English re-exports of sugar, tobacco, and calicoes created fresh markets.’
    • ‘Fabrics varied, and included calendared or glazed fabrics of wool, plain or floral printed calicos and muslins, and glazed chintz monochrome or polychrome prints.’
    • ‘Your materials are simple - muslin cut into 8-1/2 ‘squares to create the base window frames, and a variety of prints, calicos, or other fabrics to use for the windows.’’
    • ‘The store was lavish enough; if anything, he should have been gaping at the hundreds of bolts of colored calico and wool fabrics and the large barrel full of brightly-wrapped candy.’
    • ‘Flannel continued in use until the 1870s, when a rough cotton calico replaced it.’
    1. 1.1British A type of cotton cloth, typically plain white or unbleached.
      • ‘Part of Maj Riordan's job was to break up the slabs of chocolate with a hammer so that it could be put in the parcels before they were wrapped in calico to be sent abroad.’
      • ‘Apart from belts worn under the clothing, our informants also spoke of a special belt for the upper clothing of the dead which, like the rest of the garments, was tom and never cut with scissors, from a piece of white calico.’
      • ‘Before moving to America he had worked in Chorley as an apprentice calico designer and learned the art of engraving at his father's business, who was a woollen manufacturer.’
      • ‘She is a doll made of grubby green satin, with satin stumps for hands and feet, features inked onto a round of calico for her face, and her pointed head of grubby green satin also.’
      • ‘The men's clothes were made from calico by their women-folk and waterproofed with a mixture of eggs and boiled oil, so the clothes were all a yellowish grey colour!’
      • ‘For a more permanent banner, use calico instead of paper, and stitch the letters from scraps of fabric.’
      • ‘Supermarkets do offer calico and cotton bags for sale.’
      • ‘The sky, at eight in the evening, was the colour of bleached calico; the clouds against the horizon seemed painted on.’
      • ‘More often these days you see people with calico or green bags lugging their shopping home.’
      • ‘To outsiders, Nantong is probably best known for its gorgeous blue printed calico.’
      • ‘Retailers also seek to provide alternatives to plastic shopping bags, such as calico or paper bags.’
      • ‘Madge Gill made thousands of postcard doodles, huge drawings on calico and many, many medium-sized pictures: her output is just staggering.’
      • ‘We had a fascinating discussion about the skills of working calico, of cutting and barking, for the sails and of making the blocks which the boats needed.’
      • ‘All that the artist says he needs for his creations is a ‘special kind of soft paper’ and calico.’
      • ‘By the beginning of the eighteenth century the British and the Dutch East India companies were delivering over a million pieces of Indian calico to Europe.’
      • ‘The collage is based on a sheet of calico and depicts many familiar Chippenham landmarks such as the river, the war memorial, the Western Arches and the park bandstand.’
      • ‘The group of 15 five to 11-year-olds tried their hands at making drawstring bags using unbleached calico.’
      • ‘The frock was made of fine white calico wrought with blue and red thread in flowers and branch designs.’
      • ‘A pillow is regarded as obligatory and may be made, like the death-clothes, from white calico.’
      • ‘They tied calico filled with heated salt around my neck for my tonsillitis and cared for me day and night. The boys visited me and slipped baby powers under my pillow.’
      • ‘Another good idea is to put masking tape on white calico in order to create striped curtains.’
      • ‘What once might have been a real cow's hide, was now calico, stretched and teased over the ribs and stitched into place.’


North American
  • (of an animal, typically a cat) multicolored or mottled.

    • ‘A small calico cat leaped from his shoulder to the top of his head.’
    • ‘A small calico cat was digging through a trashcan, eagerly searching for some food.’
    • ‘No calico cat should ever, EVER be permitted in the vicinity of the Business Unit.’
    • ‘Ann is 70 years old and lives alone, except for her long-time companion, an aging calico cat named Molly.’
    • ‘If you abuse a circus elephant, if you run a pet shop that sells a calico cat without a license or if you're a farmer who markets a potato that's too small, the US Department of Agriculture can fine you.’
    • ‘Cyril reached down and stroked the calico cat's head with a work-roughened hand, and was rewarded with an even louder purr.’
    • ‘I watched the horse walk off, my eye staring at the pattern of colours that had always reminded more of a calico cat than anything else.’
    • ‘‘Oh, it's just you Callie,’ she said to her calico cat as she scooped her up and walked upstairs.’
    • ‘You see that big square yellow building a little to the side, through the walkway where the fat calico cat is sleeping?’
    • ‘A calico kitten was right under her feet, and Sanura twisted her leg to step farther over the little cat.’
    • ‘Even a calico cat gets the artist's ‘it’ treatment.’
    • ‘The company says calico cats are an ‘unusual case’ and ‘will always look different from their donors.’’
    • ‘Katarinka went over to the basket and stroked the calico cat curled up inside it.’
    • ‘On her way out the door, she petted one of her four calico cats in its bed near the door.’
    • ‘A little calico kitten, mottled with orange, brown, and white, had caught her eye.’
    • ‘A slender calico cat, battered by years of battling rats, gave birth to one litter after another, of which few kittens survived.’
    • ‘Peggy Sue, the elderly calico cat, jumped onto the monitor and cried for attention.’
    • ‘CC doesn't even look like the calico cat from which she was cloned.’
    • ‘A block away from the statue, a calico cat casually crosses the street right in front of me, unperturbed by traffic.’
    • ‘His only companion is Nicky, a short-haired calico cat.’


Mid 16th century (originally also calicut): alteration of Calicut, where the fabric originated.