Fibre is a huge area with lots of processes and techniques. I’m having a hell of a time keeping the various terms straight.

A couple of weaving terms I do know now, but confused in the past are warp and weft.

Warp is the lengthwise yarn or thread that’s put in place before you start actually weaving.

The warp stretches away from the weaver. In tablet weaving (card weaving), it’s the yarn that goes through the tablets. It needs to be strong, as it’s under tension when weaving.


Weft, sometimes known as woof, is the yarn that’s woven into the warp.

The weft goes from side to side. Depending on the purpose of the finished fibre, the weft can be a lot weaker than the warp. Contemporary art weaving sometimes even uses non-fibre items like leaves.

The thick white yarn and the tripled coloured yarn are the weft

Etymology, cognates and translations

Leviticus 13:47-48, mentioning “þe warp eiþer oof” in a 14th century Wycliffe Bible in Trinity College, Cambridge. B.2.8, f053v. Image is derived from original scan © the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Warp comes from the Old English wearp, via Middle English warp/werp.

The Swedish varp (en) comes from the same proto-Germanic as English, *warpo-, via Old Norse, where it was also varp.

Old High German had Warf from the proto-Germanic, but modern German uses Kette (die), from the Latin catēna, meaning chain.

The modern Irish is dlúth (masc1). Dlúth was also used in medieval times, and perhaps inne.

The Spanish is urdimbre, from the Latin ōrdior, begin to weave/lay the warp.

Warp in Latin is stamen. It also means a thread more generally, which is presumably the meaning that prompted the botanical meaning in English (the sticky out bits that produce pollen in a flower). Though looms were upright, so maybe it is from the original warp thread meaning.

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