from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A sturdy yellow or buff cotton cloth.
  • n. Trousers made of this cloth.
  • n. A Chinese porcelain with a blue-and-white pattern.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a type of cotton cloth originally from Nanking in China.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A species of cloth, of a firm texture, originally brought from China, made of a species of cotton (Gossypium religiosum) that is naturally of a brownish yellow color quite indestructible and permanent.
  • n. An imitation of this cloth by artificial coloring.
  • n. Trousers made of nankeen.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A sort of cotton cloth, usually of a yellow color, made at Nanking in China.
  • n. plural Trousers or breeches made of this material.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a durable fabric formerly loomed by hand in China from natural cotton having a yellowish color


After Nanjing .
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • – a little old man in nankeen trousers and vest, a long blue coat and ruffled shirt, leaning on his cane, for he was lame, and smiling and bowing like a true Frenchman.

    An Old-Fashioned Girl

  • Scott proceeded to review the standard list of cruel stereotypes and to repeat the derogatory poem that had earlier riled Williams: “Mandarins with yellow buttons, handing you conserves of snails;/Smart young men about Canton in nankeen tights and peacock’s tails.”

    The Romance of China: Excursions to China in U.S. Culture: 1776-1876

  • The range of colors that could be indicated by the name nankeen overlapped with yellow colors that bore different names, suggesting, despite its origins, that nankeen was the name of greatest value to merchants rather than to manufacturers.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • Director, 'of immense wealth, in a waistcoat apparently constructed in serviceable deal by some plain carpenter, but really engendered in the tailor's art, and composed of the material called nankeen, arrived and was received by Mr Dombey alone.

    Dombey and Son

  • A very short examination of Ellen's patterns ended in favour of the gray merino; and Ellen was commissioned, not only to get and pay for this, but also to choose a dark dress of the same stuff, and enough of a certain article called nankeen for a coat; Mrs. Montgomery truly opining that the old gentleman's care would do more than see her scathless — that it would have some regard to the justness and prudence of her purchases.

    The Wide, Wide World

  • A coarse-looking black or blue blouse, of that material known to us as "nankeen," a tiny apron confined to the waist by a slender scarlet cord -- their only bit of bright color -- short wide trousers, almost as broad at the bottoms as they are long, bare legs and feet -- such is a vision of the Chinese woman of the working classes.

    In Eastern Seas Or, the Commission of H.M.S. 'Iron Duke,' flag-ship in China, 1878-83

  • The material must be soaked in a solution of tin crystals before dipping, if a pure orange is desired, as without this the color will be a pink buff -- or "nankeen" color.

    How to make rugs

  • Director,’ of immense wealth, in a waistcoat apparently constructed in serviceable deal by some plain carpenter, but really engendered in the tailor’s art, and composed of the material called nankeen, arrived and was received by Mr Dombey alone.

    Dombey and Son

  • He was very gay, but one felt the force of government in him; there was dictation in his joviality; his principal ornament was a pair of trousers of elephant-leg pattern of nankeen, with straps of braided copper wire; he carried a stout rattan worth two hundred francs in his hand, and, as he treated himself to everything, a strange thing called a cigar in his mouth.

    Les Miserables

  • Originally a natural yellow-brown cotton cloth native to China, nankeen, as eighteenth - and nineteenth-century references to it suggest, was a fashionable color created in the dyehouse.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe


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  • "And it's the same with women's clothes on board a yacht; what's really charming are those light garments, uniformly white, cotton or linen or nankeen or drill, which in the sunlight and against the blue of the sea show up with as dazzling a whiteness as a spread sail."

    -- Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, Revised by D.J. Enright, p 654 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    May 7, 2008

  • Who wouldn't?

    February 15, 2008

  • I would love to wear easy nankeen pantaloons as my working clothes. Seriously.

    February 15, 2008

  • Nankeen pantaloons? What a great phrase! Added.

    February 14, 2008

  • "...the officers had abandoned their usual working clothes of easy nankeen pantaloons and light jackets for undress uniform and Hessian boots..."
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission, 289

    February 14, 2008