ETYM Old Eng. wolle, wulle, AS. wull; akin to Dutch wol, Old High Germ. wolla, German wolle, Icel. and Swed. ull, Dan. uld, Goth, wulla, Lith. vilna, Russ. volna, Latin vellus, Skr. űrnâ wool, vor to cover. Related to Flannel, Velvet.
1. A fabric made from the hair of sheep; SYN. woolen, woollen.
2. Fiber sheared from animals (such as sheep) and twisted into yarn for weaving.
3. Outer coat of esp. sheep and yaks; SYN. fleece.
The natural hair covering of the sheep, and also of the llama, angora goat, and some other mammals. The domestic sheep Ovis aries provides the great bulk of the fibers used in (textile) commerce. Lanolin is a by-product.
Sheep have been bred for their wool since ancient times. Hundreds of breeds were developed in the Middle East, Europe, and Britain over the centuries, several dozen of which are still raised for their wool today. Most of the world's finest wool comes from the merino sheep, originally from Spain. In 1797 it was introduced into Australia, which has become the world's largest producer of merino wool; South Africa and South America are also large producers. Wools from crossbred sheep (usually a cross of one of the British breeds with a merino) are produced in New Zealand. Since the 1940s, blendings of wool with synthetic fibers have been developed for textiles.