This is from today’s A Word A Day, and I love it because it describes both cat, plain weave cloth and silk – and it stems from Arabic.
with Anu Garg
1. A domestic cat with a striped or brindled coat.
2. A domestic cat, especially a female one.
3. A spinster.
4. A spiteful or gossipy woman.
5. A fabric of plain weave.
6. A watered silk fabric.
7. A building material made of lime, oyster shells, and gravel.
For 1-6: From French tabis, from Medieval Latin attabi, from Arabic attabi, from al-Attabiya, a suburb of Baghdad, Iraq, where silk was made, from the name of Prince Attab. Cats got the name tabby after similarity of their coats to the cloth; the derivations of words for females are probably from shortening of the name Tabitha.
For 7: From Gullah tabi, ultimately from Spanish tapia (wall).
“I was playing whist with the tabbies when it occurred, and saw nothing of the whole matter.”
Charles James Lever; Jack Hinton, the Guardsman; 1857.
“Kay Sekimachi uses tabby and twill weaving to contrast black and beige linens.”
Stunning 30-year Retrospective at San Jose Museum of Quilts Textiles; Independent Coast Observer (California); Jan 4, 2008.
“Mayor Carl Smith suggested that tabby fence posts be used around the cemetery’s perimeter because the oyster-based concrete would better fit the island’s character.”
Jessica Johnson; Group Restoring Cemetery; The Post and Courier (South Carolina); Jan 21, 2010.
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