Word of the Day


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a pattern of different curved shapes in different colours on cloth

Origin and usage

The word paisley comes from the name of the Scottish town where the patterned fabric was first made in the UK in imitation of items imported from India that carried the design, especially shawls. The name is derived from the Middle Irish word ‘baslec’, which means ‘church’. The cloth pattern dates back to 1834.


Paisley refers to a patterned cloth inspired by an ancient Persian design of curved, teardrop shapes in many different colours. The pattern became very popular in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries and its English name comes from the town in southwest Scotland where the cloth was produced.

Between 1800 and 1850, the town of Paisley in Scotland was the world’s leading producer of shawls with the paisley design. At a time when most textile manufacturers were making paisley designs with just two colours, the weavers in Paisley were making their designs with five colours. By 1860, paisley designs from the Scottish town contained up to 15 distinct colours.

In Asia, the pattern has remained a popular design on everything from textiles and clothing to rugs and jewellery. Paisley patterns are often woven with gold or silver thread on silk to make high-quality gifts for special occasions. Paisley is used in a wide range of decorative items including paintings, curtains, table linens and pottery.

Paisley eventually fell out of fashion in Western culture for a time but became popular again in the 1960s thanks to the influence of Eastern-influenced music and psychedelia.


“I was born in Glasgow. But my family is pretty much from a little town called Paisley, famous for its cotton mills and paisley pattern.”
(Gerard Butler)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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