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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Kermes \Ker"mes\, n. [Ar. & Per. girmiz. See Crimson, and cf. Alkermes.]

  1. (Zo["o]l.) The dried bodies of the females of a scale insect ( Kermes ilices formerly Coccus ilicis), allied to the cochineal insect, and found on several species of oak near the Mediterranean; also, the dye obtained from them. They are round, about the size of a pea, contain coloring matter analogous to carmine, and are used in dyeing. They were anciently thought to be of a vegetable nature, and were used in medicine. [Written also chermes.]

  2. (Bot.) A small European evergreen oak ( Quercus coccifera) on which the kermes insect ( Kermes ilices, formerly Coccus ilicis) feeds.
    --J. Smith (Dict. Econ. Plants).

  3. (Zo["o]l.) [NL.] A genus of scale insects including many species that feed on oaks. The adult female resembles a small gall. Kermes mineral.

    1. (Old Chem.) An artificial amorphous trisulphide of antimony; -- so called on account of its red color.

    2. (Med. Chem.) A compound of the trioxide and trisulphide of antimony, used in medicine. This substance occurs in nature as the mineral kermesite.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"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."\n

\nThe Sanskrit compound is krmih "worm" (from PIE root *kwrmi- "worm" and 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.\n

\nFrom 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, such as Welsh coch (from Latin), Modern Greek kokkinos. Compare 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 (the word for which might itself be from coccus) from the New World.\n\nCloths 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]


n. 1 any of several insects of the genus ''Kermes'' 2 (context uncountable English) Crimson dye made from the crushed bodies of these insects


Kermes may refer to :

  • Kermes (genus), a genus of insects
  • Kermes (dye), a red dye made from the bodies of Kermes insects
  • Kermes oak also called Quercus coccifera, the tree on which the Kermes insects traditionally fed
  • Alchermes, a confectionery remedy coloured red
  • Kermesite, the mineral antimony oxysulfide (SbSO), also known as red antimony
  • Kermes mineral, an older term for an imprecise compound of antimony oxides and sulfides
  • Simone Kermes, a German soprano best known for her work in the virtuoso Baroque and Classical repertoire
Kermes (dye)

Kermes is a red dye derived from the dried bodies of the females of a scale insect in the genus Kermes, primarily Kermes vermilio. The Kermes insects are native in the Mediterranean region and live on the sap of the Kermes oak. They were used as a red dye by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The kermes dye is a rich red. It has good colour fastness in silk and wool. It was much esteemed in the medieval era for dyeing silk and wool. Post-medievally it was replaced by other red dyes. It is no longer in use today.

Kermes (insect)

Kermes is a genus of scale insects in the order Hemiptera. They feed on the sap of evergreen oaks; the females produce a red dye, also called " kermes", that is the source of natural crimson. The word "kermes" is derived from Arabic/Persian qirmiz (قرمز), which means "red" or "crimson" (probably via Middle Persian, from (ultimately) Sanskrit कृमिज kṛmi-ja meaning "worm-made").

There are six species:

  • Kermes bacciformis Leonardi, 1908
  • Kermes corticalis (Nassonov, 1908)
  • Kermes gibbosus Signoret, 1875
  • Kermes ilicis (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Kermes roboris (Fourcroy, 1785)
  • Kermes vermilio Planchon, 1864

Usage examples of "kermes".

Her scarlet robe was dyed with the dye of the insect called the kermes and she looked like a living flame.

He held a crooked stick cut along the road from a wild kermes oak, and banged it on the ground as he marched.