mid-15c., "a kind of cloth made with interwoven gold or silver thread," from Anglo-French tencele, Old French estencele, estincelle "spark, spangle" (see stencil (n.)). "In 14-15th c. Fr., the s of es- had long been mute" [OED]. Meaning "very thin sheets or strips of shiny metal" is recorded from 1590s. Figurative sense of "anything showy with little real worth" is from 1650s, suggested from at least 1590s. Use of Tinseltown for "Hollywood" is by 1972.
ceramic ware having a translucent body, and, when it is glazed, a translucent glaze, 1530s, from French porcelaine and directly from Italian porcellana "porcelain" (13c.), literally "cowrie shell;" the chinaware being so called from resemblance of its lustrous transparency to the shiny surface of the shells. As an adjective from 1590s.
The shell's name in Italian is from porcella "young sow," fem. of Latin porcellus "young pig," diminutive of porculus "piglet," itself a diminutive of porcus "pig" (from PIE root *porko- "young pig"). According to an old theory, the connection of the shell and the pig is a perceived resemblance of the shell (also Venus shell) opening to the exposed outer genitalia of pigs. According to Century Dictionary (1897) the shell was "so called because the shape of the upper surface resembles the curve of a pig's back."
porcelain is china & china is p.; there is no recondite difference between the two things, which indeed are not two, but one; & the difference between the two words is merely that china is the homely term, while porcelain is exotic & literary. [Fowler]
type of metal-cased bullet which expands on impact, 1897, named for Dum-Dum arsenal in Bengal. British army soldiers made them to use against fanatical charges by tribesmen. Outlawed by international declaration, 1899. The place name is literally "hill, mound, battery," cognate with Persian damdama.
It was to stop these fanatics [Ghazi] — and that firstclass fighting man Fuzzy-Wuzzy, of the Soudan and of Somaliland—that the thing known as the Dum-Dum bullet was invented. No ordinary bullet, unless it hits them in a vital part or breaks a leg, will be sufficient to put the brake on these magnificently brave people. ["For Foreign Service: Hints on Soldiering in the Shiny East," London, 1915]
Pile on the brown man's burden
And if ye rouse his hate,
Meet his old fashioned reasons
With Maxims up-to-date;
With shells and dum dum bullets
A hundred times make plain,
The brown man's loss must ever
Imply the white man's gain.
[Henry Labouchère, from "The Brown Man's Burden," 1899]
mid-14c., "costly silken fabric of one color having a repeated pattern of the same color woven into it," from Old French diapre, diaspre "ornamental cloth; flowered, patterned silk cloth," perhaps via Medieval Latin diasprum from Medieval Greek diaspros "thoroughly white," or perhaps "white interspersed with other colors," from dia "thoroughly" (see dia-) + aspros "white."
Aspros originally meant "rough," and was applied to the raised parts of coins (among other things), and thus it was used in Byzantine Greek to mean "silver coin," from which the bright, shiny qualities made it an adjective for whiteness.
The sense of the English word descended through "textile fabric having a pattern not strongly defined and repeated at short intervals," especially, since 15c., of linen where the pattern is indicated only by the direction of the thread, the whole being white or in the unbleached natural color.
By 1590s this led to a sense "towel, napkin or cloth of diaper;" the main modern sense of "square piece of cloth for swaddling the bottoms of babies" is by 1837 and became common in 20c. Also "any pattern constantly repeated over a relatively large surface" (by 1851).
type of manufactured fiber, 1924, chosen by National Retail Dry Goods Association of America, probably from French rayon "beam of light, ray," from rai (see ray (n.1)) and so called because it is shiny. A marketer's alternative to the original patented name, artificial silk (1884) and the other marketing attempt, Glos, which was "killed by ridicule" [Draper's Record, June 14, 1924].
[T]he production of rayon in American plants, which in 1920 had been only eight million pounds, had by 1925 reached fifty-three million pounds. The flesh-colored stocking became as standard as the short skirt. ... No longer were silk stockings the mark of the rich; as the wife of a workingman with a total family income of $1,638 a year told the authors of Middletown, "No girl can wear cotton stockings to high school. Even in winter my children wear silk stockings with lisle or imitations underneath." [Frederick Lewis Allen, "Only Yesterday," 1931]
By coincidence, Old French rayon had been borrowed into Middle English centuries earlier as a name for a type of cloth.