Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Idioms, Wikipedia.


fabric or yarn made from the fiber of flaxflax,
common name for members of the Linaceae, a family of annual herbs, especially members of the genus Linum, and for the fiber obtained from such plants. The flax of commerce (several varieties of L.
..... Click the link for more information.
, probably the first vegetable fiber known to people. Linens more than 3,500 years old have been recovered from Egyptian tombs. Phoenician traders marketed linen in Mediterranean ports. Worn by Egyptian, Greek, and Jewish priests as a symbol of purity, it also typified luxury as in the phrase "purple and fine linen." Flax was cultivated by the Romans and introduced by them into N Europe. The production of linen was encouraged by Charlemagne, and linen became the principal European textile of the Middle Ages. Flanders has been renowned from the 11th cent. for its creamy flax and fine thread. French Huguenots excelled in working flax and carried the art abroad, notably to Ireland, where Louis Crommelin established (c.1699) a manufactory at Lisburn, near Belfast. Ireland is still the largest producer of fine linen, with Belgium, Japan, and Russia producing somewhat lesser amounts. The first flax-spinning mill was opened in England in 1787, but only in 1812 was linen successfully woven with power looms. The industry suffered in relation to cotton because many textile inventions were not applicable to linen, the inelasticity of the fiber causing it to break readily under tension. Although linen exceeds cotton in coolness, luster, strength, and length of fiber, the expense of production limits its use. After the flax fiber is removed from the stems, it is delivered to the mills, where it is hackled to separate and straighten the fibers, overlapped on a spreadboard to form a continuous ribbon, drawn out through rollers, then wound from the roving frame on bobbins in a loosely twisted thread. For fine goods the thread is usually spun wet. Linen may be bleached in the yarn or in the piece. It is woven into fabrics ranging from heavy canvas to sheer handkerchief linen.



a fabric made from flax yarn, primarily by weaving fibers. When cotton yarn is included as the warp or weft, the fabric is called cotton warp linen. The most valuable properties of linen are its great strength, its ability to absorb moisture with a comparatively high air- and heat-permeability, and its resistance to decomposition. Linen is also distinguished by its fine quality and increased durability, which are improved by fabric finishing. Linens are very strong and their resistance to shrinkage when dampened is comparatively high. The weight of 1 sq m of linen ranges from 100 g (batiste) to 1,000 g or more (tarpaulin). Linens are used in the manufacture of underwear, industrial articles, packaging material, and other products.

Several types of linens are distinguished according to their use and structure, including table damask (tablecloths and napkins); damask and terry; canvas and toilet cloths; suit and dress fabrics (mat, tricot); sheeting, fine underwear, and ticking; and coarse (industrial) linen, interlinings, sail cloth, tarpaulin, packaging materials, and fire hoses. Linen is produced unbleached, semi-bleached, bleached, and dyed. Fabrics with a mixture of flax and lavsan have excellent properties; for example, they are wrinkle-proof and durable.


A cloth made from flax fibers, noted for its strength, weavability, durability, and minimum discharge of lint.


a. a hard-wearing fabric woven from the spun fibres of flax
b. (as modifier): a linen tablecloth
2. yarn or thread spun from flax fibre
3. clothes, sheets, tablecloths, etc., made from linen cloth or from a substitute such as cotton
References in classic literature ?
again growled the cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the tomahawk scattered the hot tobacco ashes about me till I thought my linen would get on fire.
They dressed in white linen from head to foot, like the old gentleman, and wore broad Panama hats.
The searching look of the eyes, the sharp voice, the hard knotty fingers, the thin straight lips, the long silences, the "front- piece" that didn't match her hair, the very obvious "parting" that seemed sewed in with linen thread on black net,--there was not a single item that appealed to Rebecca.
Their yearly clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts, one pair of linen trousers, like the shirts, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter, made of coarse negro cloth, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes; the whole of which could not have cost more than seven dollars.
Tellson's had whitewashed the Cupid, but he was still to be seen on the ceiling, in the coolest linen, aiming (as he very often does) at money from morning to night.
The shepherd himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag held nothing but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong linen spun from that thread, was not quite sure that this trade of weaving, indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely without the help of the Evil One.
Besides the gold-fish in the pond at the bottom of his garden, he had rabbits in the pantry, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen closet and a hedgehog in the cellar.
She made me seven shirts, and some other linen, of as fine cloth as could be got, which indeed was coarser than sackcloth; and these she constantly washed for me with her own hands.
In the morning the witch gave the girl two pieces of linen to weave before night, and the boy a pile of wood to cut into chips.
They saw advancing towards them, to the sound of this pleasing music, what they call a triumphal car, drawn by six grey mules with white linen housings, on each of which was mounted a penitent, robed also in white, with a large lighted wax taper in his hand.
The linen of the chevalier was invariably of a fineness and whiteness that were truly aristocratic.
Scarcely ever; she had business to transact with linen drapers, to whose houses I conducted her.