Printable Version
Pronunciation: sir-sêk-êr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A lightweight cotton puckered material covered with tiny blue (or some other color) and white stripes.

Notes: Seersucker has survived for a long time; I just purchased a seersucker jacket to go with my white pants that I plan to wear on a cruise of the Caribbean islands. It is a folk etymological modification of a Persian word used in Hindi, brought to England when England ruled India.

In Play: Since it is a light fabric, we see men in seersucker only in spring and summer: "Harry came to the yacht club party in a seersucker jacket, a straw hat, and white shorts." Men who worked in extremely hot environments, such as the vicinity of locomotives and furnaces, wore heavy-duty seersucker overalls by in the first half of the 20th century because it allowed air to pass through.

Word History: seersuckerToday's Good Word has been with us since the early 18th century. It comes from Hindi sirsakar, a corruption of Persian shir o shakar "striped (cloth)", literally "milk and sugar (cloth)", a reference to its alternately smooth (like milk) and granular (like sugar) surface. The Persian phrase contains shir "milk" and shakar "sugar". Shir is akin to Sanskrit ksiram "milk". Shakar is a cognate of Sanskrit sharkara "sugar", but originally "gravel, grit". It's a distant cousin of Greek kroke "pebble". English sugar was borrowed from Old French sukere, the remnants of Latin succarum. It was apparently borrowed from Arabic sukkar, an apparent borrowing from some Indo-European language. When he reached Persia, Alexander the Great discovered what he called "honey without bees", but Europeans only began using sugar as a substitute for honey after the Crusades in the 14th century.

Dr. Goodword,

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