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From Middle English silken, selken, seolkene, from Old English seolcen, seolucen (made of silk, silken), equivalent to silk +‎ -en (made of). Cognate with Scots selkin, silkin (silken), Icelandic silki (silken).


  • (file)


silken (not comparable)

  1. Made of silk.
    a silken veil
  2. Having a smooth, soft, or light texture, like that of silk; suggestive of silk.
    • 1646, Richard Crashaw, “Vpon Mr. Staninough’s Death” in Steps to the Temple: Sacred Poems, with Other Delights of the Muses, London: Humphrey Moseley, p. 40,[1]
      Come then youth, Beauty, and Blood, all ye soft powers,
      Whose silken flatteryes swell a few fond houres.
    • 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, London: J. Johnson, Part I, Chapter 9, p. 322,[2]
      [] love is not to be bought, in any sense of the words, its silken wings are instantly shrivelled up when any thing beside a return in kind is sought.
    • 1855, Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, Chapter 1,[3]
      [] in spite of the buzz in the next room, Edith had rolled herself up into a soft ball of muslin and ribbon, and silken curls, and gone off into a peaceful little after-dinner nap.
    • 1994, Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus, Random House, 2010, Chapter 2, p. 37,[4]
      He heard the silken rustle of a dressing-gown being drawn on.
  3. (figuratively, of speech, singing, oratory, etc.) Smoothly uttered; flowing, subtle, or convincing in presentation.
  4. Dressed in silk.
    • c. 1596, William Shakespeare, King John, Act V, Scene 1,[6]
      [] shall a beardless boy,
      A cocker’d silken wanton, brave our fields [] ?
    • 1633, John Donne, “Satyre I” in Poems, London: John Marriot, p. 327,[7]
      Yet though he cannot skip forth now to greet
      Every fine silken painted foole we meet,
      He then to him with amorous smiles allures,
    • 1724, Aaron Hill, The Plain Dealer, London: S. Richardson & A. Wilde, 1730, Volume 2, No. 81, 28 December, 1724, p. 197,[8]
      Last Saturday was three Weeks, at Two, in the Afternoon, I sent out my Servant, to watch a Couple of these Silken Strollers, and keep, if possible, within Ken of them.
    • 1968, Jan Morris, Pax Britannica: The Climax of Empire, London: Faber & Faber, 2010, Chapter 10, p. 200,[9]
      [] the Viceroy moved magnificently through India, resplendent with all the colour and dash of the vast Empire at his feet, with his superb bodyguard jangling scarlet beside his carriage, silken Indian princes bowing at his carpet, generals quivering at the salute and ceremonial salutes of thirty-one guns []


  • (made of silk): seric (rare)

Derived termsEdit



silken (third-person singular simple present silkens, present participle silkening, simple past and past participle silkened)

  1. (transitive) To render silken or silklike.
    silkening body lotion
    • 1757, John Dyer, The Fleece, London: R. & J. Dodsley, Book I, lines 492-494, p. 30,[10]
      Or, if your sheep are of Silurian breed,
      Nightly to house them dry on fern or straw,
      Silk’ning their fleeces.
    • 1987, Derek Walcott, “The Light of the World” in The Arkansas Testament, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, p. 48,[11]
      [] these lights silkened her black skin:


Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of selken


Norwegian BokmålEdit


silken m

  1. definite singular of silke

Norwegian NynorskEdit


silken m

  1. definite singular of silke