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Definition of mattress

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mat·tress  audio  (mtrs) KEY 

    1. A usually rectangular pad of heavy cloth filled with soft material or an arrangement of coiled springs, used as or on a bed.
    2. An airtight inflatable pad used as or on a bed or as a cushion.
  1. A closely woven mat of brush and poles used to protect an embankment, a dike, or a dam from erosion.

Middle English mattresse, from Old French materas, from Old Italian materasso, and from Medieval Latin matracium both from Arabic mara, place where something is thrown, mat, cushion, from araa, to throw; see r in Semitic roots

The history of the word mattress is a small lesson in the way amenities have come to Europe from the Middle East. During the earlier part of the Middle Ages, Arabic culture was more advanced than that of Europe. One of the amenities of life enjoyed by the Arabs was sleeping on cushions thrown on the floor. Derived from the Arabic word araa, "to throw," the word mara meant "place where something is thrown" and "mat, cushion." This kind of sleeping surface was adopted by the Europeans during the Crusades, and the Arabic word was taken into Old Italian (materasso) and then into Old French (materas), from which comes the Middle English word materas, first recorded in a work written around 1300. The Arabic word also became Medieval Latin matracium, another source of our word.

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