late Old English, cemes "shirt, undershirt," from Old French chemise "shirt, undertunic, shift," or directly from Late Latin camisia "shirt, tunic" (Jerome; also source of Italian camicia, Spanish camisa); originally a soldier's word, probably via Gaulish, from Proto-Germanic *hamithjan (source also of Old Frisian hemethe, Old Saxon hemithi, Old English hemeðe, German hemd "shirt"), which is of uncertain origin.
The French form took over after c. 1200, along with the specialized sense "woman's undergarment." In early 19c. a short, loose-fitting gown worn by women; in early 20c. a dress hanging straight from the shoulders. Each of these is possibly a separate borrowing of the French word. Related: Chemisette.
updated on November 07, 2017