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kermes

[kur-meez] /ˈkɜr miz/
noun
1.
a red dye formerly prepared from the dried bodies of the females of a scale insect, Kermes ilices, which lives on small, evergreen oaks of the Mediterranean region.
2.
the oak itself, of the genus Quercus coccifera.
Origin
1590-1600
1590-1600; < French kermès < Arabic qirmiz < Persian; replacing earlier chermez < Italian chermes < Arabic as above; see crimson
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for kermes

kermes

/ˈkɜːmɪz/
noun
1.
the dried bodies of female scale insects of the genus Kermes, esp K. ilices of Europe and W Asia, used as a red dyestuff
2.
a small evergreen Eurasian oak tree, Quercus coccifera, with prickly leaves resembling holly: the host plant of kermes scale insects
Word Origin
C16: from French kermès, from Arabic qirmiz, from Sanskrit krmija- red dye, literally: produced by a worm, from krmi worm + ja- produced
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
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Word Origin and History for kermes
n.

"shield louse," c.1600 of the insect preparation used as a dye, etc.; 1590s of the species of oak on which the insects live, from Medieval Latin cremesinus (also source of French kermès, Italian chermes, Spanish carmes), from Arabic qirmiz "kermes," from Sanskrit krmi-ja a compound meaning "(red dye) produced by a worm."

The Sanskrit compound is krmih "worm" (cognate with Lithuanian kirmis, Old Irish cruim, Albanian krimp "worm") + -ja- "produced" (from PIE *gene-; see genus). The insect lives in the Levant and southern Europe on a species of oak (kermes oak). They were esteemed from ancient times as a source of red and scarlet dye. The dye is harvested from pregnant females, which in that state resemble small roundish grains about the size of peas and cling immobile to the tree on which they live.

From this fact kermes dye was, for a long time, mistaken in Europe as being from a seed or excrescence of the tree, and the word for it in Greek was kokkos, literally "a grain, seed" (see cocco-). This was passed to Latin as coccum, coccus "berry [sic] yielding scarlet dye," in late use "scarlet color, scarlet garment." So important was kermes (coccus) as a commercial source of scarlet dye that derivatives of the name for it have displaced the original word for "red" in many languages, e.g. Welsh coch (from Latin), Modern Greek kokkinos. Cf. also crimson (n.). Kermes dyes have been found in burial wrappings in Anglo-Scandinavian York, but the use of kermes dyes seems to have been lost in Europe from the Dark Ages until early 15c. It fell out of use again with the introduction of cochineal (which might itself be from coccus) from the New World.

Cloths dyed with kermes are of a deep red colour; and though much inferior in brilliancy to the scarlet cloths dyed with real Mexican cochineal, they retain the colour better and are less liable to stain. The tapestries of Brussels and other parts of Flanders, which have scarcely lost any thing of their original brilliancy, even after a lapse of 200 years, were all dyed with kermes. [W.T. Brande, "Dictionary of Science, Literature, & Art," London, 1842]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for kermes

a species of scale insect in the family Kermesidae (order Homoptera), the common name of which also represents the red dye that is obtained from the dried bodies of these insects. The dye was often part of the tribute paid to conquering Roman armies, and, in the Middle Ages, landlords accepted it as payment for rent. The oldest known red dyestuff, resembling but inferior in colour to cochineal, it was used by the early Egyptians

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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