1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gossamer
|←Goss, Sir John||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12
|See also Gossamer on Wikipedia; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
GOSSAMER, a fine, thread-like and filmy substance spun by small spiders, which is seen covering stubble fields and gorse bushes, and floating in the air in clear weather; especially in the autumn. By transference anything light, unsubstantial or flimsy is known as “gossamer.” A thin gauzy material used for trimming and millinery, resembling the “chiffon” of to-day, was formerly known as gossamer; and in the early Victorian period it was a term used in the hat trade, for silk hats of very light weight.
The word is obscure in origin, it is found in numerous forms in English, and is apparently taken from gose, goose and somere, summer. The Germans have Mädchensommer, maidens' summer, and Altweibersommer, old women's summer, as well as Sommerfäden, summer-threads, as equivalent to the English gossamer, the connexion apparently being that gossamer is seen most frequently in the warm days of late autumn (St Martin's summer) when geese are also in season. Another suggestion is that the word is a corruption of gaze à Marie (gauze of Mary) through the legend that gossamer was originally the threads which fell away from the Virgin's shroud on her assumption.