Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What does "sizing" mean in the following quote from http://www.wikihow.com/Press-a-Shirt:

Lightly spray the hanging shirt with sizing or spray starch (optional) then remove the shirt from hanger.

My understanding is that in "spray the hanging shirt with sizing", "sizing" seems to be some fluid that will be sprayed on the hanging shirt. But as far as I know, "sizing" means an action of changing the size of something.


share|improve this question
-1 shows no research effort. Close General Reference. –  MετάEd Aug 31 '12 at 1:56
@mata- OP is confused as to how sizing and size are related. –  Noah Aug 31 '12 at 3:16
add comment

closed as general reference by MετάEd, Mark Beadles, tchrist, Mahnax, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Aug 31 '12 at 13:01

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

size - a semi-solid glutinous substance, prepared from materials similar to those which furnish glue, and used to mix with colours, to dress cloth or paper, and for various other purposes.

(that's from OED, who say the origin is unclear).

Size can also be used as a verb with this sense (to apply, or treat with size). Sometimes the form sizing is used instead of size as a noun, but in my experience this isn't common, and I think it has a somewhat archaic tone.

Specifically in OP's context, the size/sizing is likely to be starch-based - its purpose being to stiffen the shirt-cloth to make it look smarter (not creased). Starch also thickens/stiffens more when heated (think of custard), so pressing with a hot iron will increase the effect, but isn't essential.

share|improve this answer
Sizing is more common in the US, or at least in the US military. –  Mark Beadles Aug 31 '12 at 1:43
@Mark: I know it exists - Google Books claims 32 instances of "spray sizing on". But "spray size on" has a claimed 92 instances, and that's the version I'm more familiar with. I suspect it would be just too difficult to find out whether there's a US/UK split here. –  FumbleFingers Aug 31 '12 at 1:52
add comment

A quick search provides the following answer:

Starch is vegetable-based (it’s formulated from wheat, corn or rice), while sizing is a resinous solution that can be either vegetable- or plastic-based.

When starch is applied in place of sizing, the garment can become overly stiff, crease easily and wrinkle before and during wear. Because sizing adds body to fabric, it makes garments easier to finish, reduces wrinkling during wear, and keeps pleats and creases sharp.

Wikipedia also has a bit on sizing and desizing textiles (in manufacturing).

An online video also explains when to use sizing instead of starch.

As per the definition:

sizing (plural sizings) n. -

  1. A gelatinous glue for glazing or sizing canvas, paper, plaster or wood; often made from animal skins.
  2. paste

It is also referred to as size and likely shares a similar etymology: "sise, syse (“regulation, control, limit”)". Like starch, it "controls" the stiffness of the cloth.

share|improve this answer
Thanks! Why is the liquid called sizing? I have tried, but I don't know how to answer you why. –  Tim Aug 30 '12 at 23:59
@Tim The liquid is also referred to as size. The usual online sources didn't have a specific etymology but it would seem to be related to the origin of size: "sise, syse (“regulation, control, limit”)". Like starch, it "controls" the stiffness of the cloth. –  Zairja Aug 31 '12 at 0:05
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.