A sturdy cotton twill fabric characterised by its 3×1 warp-faced weave. In this weave the weft passes under two warp yarns producing the familiar diagonal ribbing, identifiable on the reverse of the fabric. Traditionally denim is made with indigo-dyed yarn for the warp and natural (or more usually bleached) yarn for the weft. Nowadays, denim is mostly associated with blue jeans.
The word denim is thought to have derived from ‘serge de Nîmes’. Serge was used to refer to any type of woolen, semi-woollen and silk fabrics, made with twill weave. Denim is thought to be short for ‘de Nîmes’ (‘from Nîmes’).
Nîmes is a town in the south of France. It was an important textile region in the 18th century for materials such as serge and cloth. In this same period, there was, however, also a fabric called nim. This woollen fabric was originally made in Spain, but was also manufactured in the south of France. Its definite origin remains uncertain.
Denim first appeared in England in 1695. Almost a century later, an example of the fabric can be found in Hilton’s Manuscript, a sample book from 1786 named after cotton trader John Hilton from Manchester.
Sources: oki-ni and Nouvelle de Nîmes Nº 5: The Denim Dictionary