gossamer vs sheer what difference

what is difference between gossamer and sheer



From Middle English gossomer, gosesomer, gossummer (attested since around 1300, and only in reference to webs or other light things), usually thought to derive from gos (goose) + somer (summer) and to have initially referred to a period of warm weather in late autumn when geese were eaten — compare Middle Scots goesomer, goe-summer (summery weather in late autumn; St Martin’s summer) (later connected in folk-etymology to go) — and to have been transferred to cobwebs because they were frequent then or because they were likened to goose-down. Skeat says that in Craven the webs were called summer-goose, and compares Scots and dialectal English use of summer-colt in reference to “exhalations seen rising from the ground in hot weather”. Weekley notes that both the webs and the weather have fantastical names in most European languages: compare German Altweibersommer (Indian summer; cobwebs, gossamer, literally old wives’ summer) and other terms listed there.


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈɡɒ.sə.mə/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈɡɑ.sə.mɚ/


gossamer (countable and uncountable, plural gossamers)

  1. A fine film or strand as of cobwebs, floating in the air or caught on bushes, etc.
    • c. 1594, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 6,[1]
      A lover may bestride the gossamer
      That idles in the wanton summer air,
      And yet not fall; so light is vanity.
    • 1697, John Dryden (translator), Georgics Book 1, line 453, inThe Works of Virgil, London: Jacob Tonson, p. 65,[2]
      The filmy Gossamer now flitts no more,
    • 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped, London: Cassell, Chapter 22, p. 222,[3]
      I had been dead-heavy before, and now I felt a kind of dreadful lightness, which would not suffer me to walk. I drifted like a gossamer; the ground seemed to me a cloud, the hills a feather-weight, the air to have a current, like a running burn, which carried me to and fro.
    • 1972, Richard Adams, Watership Down, Penguin, 1974, Part 2, Chapter 26, p. 233,[4]
      The dew and gossamer had dried early from the grass
  2. A soft, sheer fabric.
    • 1894, Kate Chopin, “A Lady of Bayou St. John” in Bayou Folk, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, p. 306,[5]
      Madame wiped the picture with her gossamer handkerchief and impulsively pressed a tender kiss upon the painted canvas.
    • 1947, Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, New York: Signet, Scene 5, p. 84,[6]
      She takes a large, gossamer scarf from the trunk and drapes it about her shoulders.
    • 2013, Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers, New York: Scribner, Chapter 14, p. 231,[7]
      a circle of popes or maybe bishops in white gossamer robes
  3. Anything delicate, light and flimsy.

Derived terms

  • gossamered
  • gossamery (adjective)
  • gossamer-thin (adjective)



gossamer (comparative more gossamer, superlative most gossamer)

  1. Tenuous, light, filmy or delicate.
    • 1845, Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat” in Tales, New York: Wiley and Putnam, p. 37,[8]
      There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
    • 1857, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Daisy’s Necklace: And What Came of It
      The heaven was spangled with tremulous stars, and at the horizon the clouds hung down in gossamer folds—God’s robe trailing in the sea!
    • 1997, Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, New York: Random House, Chapter 2, p. 83,[9]
      A gossamer blanket of coaldust floated down like a dirty blessing and gently smothered the traffic.


  • gossamery
  • gossamer-thin





  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈʃɪə/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ʃɪɹ/
  • Rhymes: -ɪə(ɹ)
  • Homophone: shear

Etymology 1

From Middle English shere, scheere, schere, skere, from Old English sċǣre; merged with Middle English schyre, schire, shire, shir, from Old English sċīr (clear, bright; brilliant, gleaming, shining, splendid, resplendent; pure) and Middle English skyr, from Old Norse skírr (pure, bright, clear), both from Proto-Germanic *skīriz (pure, sheer) and *skairiz, from Proto-Indo-European *sḱēy- (luster, gloss, shadow).

Cognate with Danish skær, German schier (sheer), Dutch schier (almost), Gothic ???????????????????????? (skeirs, clear, lucid). Outside Germanic, cognate to Albanian hir (grace, beauty; goodwill).


sheer (comparative sheerer or more sheer, superlative sheerest or most sheer)

  1. (textiles) Very thin or transparent.
  2. (obsolete) Pure in composition; unmixed; unadulterated.
    • c. 1592, William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Induction, scene ii:
      If she say I am not fourteen pence on the score for sheer ale, score me up for the lying’st knave in Christendom.
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, King Richard the Second, Act V, scene iii:
      Thou sheer, immaculate and silver fountain, / From when this stream through muddy passages / Hath held his current and defiled himself!
  3. (by extension) Downright; complete; pure.
    • 2012, July 15. Richard Williams in Guardian Unlimited, Tour de France 2012: Carpet tacks cannot force Bradley Wiggins off track
      Cycling’s complex etiquette contains an unwritten rule that riders in contention for a race win should not be penalised for sheer misfortune.
  4. Used to emphasize the amount or degree of something.
    • 2012 October 31, David M. Halbfinger, “[4],” New York Times (retrieved 31 October 2012):
      Perhaps as startling as the sheer toll was the devastation to some of the state’s well-known locales. Boardwalks along the beach in Seaside Heights, Belmar and other towns on the Jersey Shore were blown away. Amusement parks, arcades and restaurants all but vanished. Bridges to barrier islands buckled, preventing residents from even inspecting the damage to their property.
  5. Very steep; almost vertical or perpendicular.
  • (very thin or transparent): diaphanous, see-through, thin
  • (pure, unmixed): pure, undiluted
  • (downright, complete): downright, mere (obsolete), pure, unmitigated
  • (straight up and down): perpendicular, steep, vertical
Derived terms
  • sheerly
  • sheerness
  • sheer-to-waist


sheer (comparative more sheer, superlative most sheer)

  1. (archaic) Clean; quite; at once.


sheer (plural sheers)

  1. A sheer curtain or fabric.

Etymology 2

Perhaps from Dutch scheren (to move aside, skim); see also shear.


sheer (plural sheers)

  1. (nautical) The curve of the main deck or gunwale from bow to stern.
  2. (nautical) An abrupt swerve from the course of a ship.


sheer (third-person singular simple present sheers, present participle sheering, simple past and past participle sheered)

  1. (chiefly nautical) To swerve from a course.
  2. (obsolete) To shear.
    • So thick, our navy scarce could sheer their way

Further reading

  • sheer at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “sheer”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.



  • Esher, Herse, Rhees, Shere, heers, here’s, heres, herse



  • IPA(key): [ʃeːɾ]


sheer (plural sheerisho)

  1. lion


Sadaf Munshi (2015), “Word Lists”, in Burushaski Language Documentation Project[5].

Middle English



  1. Alternative form of shere

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial