Cuneiform tablet and ball of wool

Working Group 3 – Textile and Clothing Terminologies


Objectives: to explore specialized language and garment terms in European languages, and Semitic loan words; to trace and map textile and garment loanwords between the languages within Europe; to determine how textile terminologies influence other fields of knowledge, such as the natural sciences and expressions for the body; to explore how clothing is used as metaphor and literary device in European literature.

Themes: Europe is rich in languages. Through textile and clothing terminology, we perceive contacts, innovations, trade routes and economic structures. Terminology arises and develops in unison with technical innovations, discoveries, fashions, and trade patterns. When new textile techniques or new clothing items come from a foreign place, languages have different strategies for naming them: 1.Adaptation of the foreign name as a loan word, e.g. kimono, pyjamas, or the term cotton from Arabic qtn through Spanish to English, of a 2nd millennium BCE Semitic root ktn (Linear B ki-to, Akkadian kunatum); 2. Formations based on the description of the item, such as German Baumwolle, meaning ‘wool from trees’, or the Greek cloak chlamys shaped as a clam shell; 3.Formations based on the description of how to wear it: English overcoat, underwear; 4.Formations based on the description of the tools used to make it. In South American Spanish is a word for weaving, tejer, and with the introduction of knitting, this new technology was termed ‘weaving with sticks’, tejer a palitos. 5. Formations based on the toponymical reference to the place of production, purchase, or trade: Norwich cloth, muslin (< Mosul), damask (<Damascus).

Lead seals for textiles

In the specialised terminological fields of textiles, and especially in clothing terminology, we observe a substantial use of loanwords, which testify to trade, fashion, and innovations. We also observe how textile and garment terms are used in philosophy, literature and science as metaphors or as concrete images of larger concepts such as identity, destiny, coherence and unity, complexity.

Major questions are: Q1: How can we understand toponyms in textile terminology? Q2: How far can loan words in textile terminology inform us about the economic and technical contexts? Q3: How does a textile or clothing term (i.e. text) refer and relate to the object (textile)?


Working Group
Louise Quillien

Working Group
Susanne Lervad

Working Group
Joana Sequeira

Country Name Affiliation
CH Corinne Mühlemann Bern University
DE Juliane Müller Independent Researcher
DE Kerstin Dross-Krupe University of Kassel
DK Susanne Lervad University of Copenhagen, Centre for Textile Research (CTR)
DK Maria Mossakowska-Gaubert University of Copenhagen, Centre for Textile Research (CTR)
DK Marie-Louise Nosch University of Copenhagen, Centre for Textile Research (CTR)
EL Dimitra Andrianou National Hellenic Research Foundation
EL Tina Boloti Academy of Athens
EL Stella Spantidaki Hellenic Centre for Research and Conservation of Archaeological Textiles (ARTEX), University of the Aegean
ES Dolores Serrano-Niza University of La Laguna
ES Elena Miramontes Seijas Autonomous University of Madrid
FR Louise Quillien CNRS
FR Cécile Michel CNRS
FR Astrid Castres Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
FR/RU Yulia Alyunina Université Lumière Lyon 2
HU Rebeka Nagy Museum of Applied Arts of Budapest
HU Réka Semsey Museum of Applied Arts of Budapest
HU Anikó Moór Museum of Applied Arts of Budapest
IS Meghan Korten University of Iceland
LT Eglė Kumpikaite & Daiva Milašiene Kaunas University of Technology
MT Claire Bonavia Heritage Malta – Agency for Cultural Heritage
NO Hana Lukesova The University Museum of Bergen
PT Joana Sequeira Lab2PT/INT2PAST, University of Minho
PT Catarina Costeira Municipality of Sintra, UNIARQ – University of Lisbon
PT Paula Nabais LAQV – Requimte, NOVA University of Lisbon
PT Vanessa Otero NOVA University of Lisbon
PT Luís Mendonça de Carvalho NOVA University of Lisbon
RO Irina Petroviciu National Museum of Romanian History, Center of Research and Scientific Investigation
SE/NO Peder Flemstad Lund University, Swedish Institute at Athens