What’s the origin of the word “denim”?

Dear Cecil:

I've heard the fabric we know as denim originated in a French town called Neise but pronounced Nen, hence "de Nen," or denim. True?

Cecil replies:

No, but you’re in the ballpark, which is about all we can hope for these days. Denim was originally known as serge de Nimes, pronounced “neem,” Nimes being the French town where the stuff was first made.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

Comment on this Column