1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sheet

SHEET, an expanse or surface, flat and thin, of various materials; a rope attached to a sail. These two apparently widely separated meanings are to be explained by the generally received etymology. In O. Eng. there are three words, all from the root seen in “shoot,” to dart, let fly, thrust forward; scete or scȳte, a sheet of cloth, sceat, corner or fold of a garment, projecting angles, region (e.g. sæs scādt, portion of the sea, gulf, bay), and scēata, foot of a sail, pes veli (Wright, Gloss.). The original meaning, according to Skeat, is “projection,” or that which shoots out, then a corner, especially of a garment or of a cloth; after which it was extended to mean a whole cloth or “sheet.” In Icelandic, the cognate word skaut has much the same meanings, including that of a rope attached to a sail. Other cognate forms in Teutonic languages are Ger. Schoss, lap, bosom, properly fold of a garment, Dutch schoot, Icel. skaut, &c. In current English usage, “sheet” is commonly applied to any flat, thin surface, such as a sheet of paper, a sheet of metal, or, in a transferred application, to an expanse of water, ice, fire, &c. More specifically it is used of a rectangular piece of linen or cotton used as that part of the usual bed clothes which are next the sleeper's body. In nautical usage the term “sheet” is applied to a rope or chain attached to the lower corners of a sail for the purpose of extension or change of direction (see Rigging. The connexion in derivation with “shoot” is clearly seen in “sheet-anchor,” earlier “shoot-anchor”—one that is kept in reserve, to be “shot” in case of emergency (see Anchor).