Origins Of The Word Pashmina

The first mention of the word pashmina in English was in 1850. This is a according to a fascinating book called ” Borrowed Words: A History Of Loan Words in English” by Philip Durkin.

As you would expect, the word came in to the English language through trade with Persia and the Indian subcontinent.

The word comes from Persian, from pashmin which means woolen, and from pashm which means wool.

So I guess that makes pashmina literally mean ‘ from woolen ‘.

Misuse And Confusion Of The Word Pashmina

This is where we get to some confusion about the precise meaning of the word pashmina.

According to Merriam Webster there are two meanings:

Definition of pashmina
1. a fine wool similar to cashmere made from the undercoat of domestic Himalayan goats
2.a shawl made from this wool

Merriam Webster

I think this is a bad definition, and here’s why.

Cashmere only comes from the Capra-Hircus goat. That is the definition of cashmere. You can’t call fibres from any other type of Himalayan goats cashmere. If it comes from the Capra Hircus goat then it is cashmere. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t. If it is extra fine cashmere, it is still cashmere.

My second quibble with the first definition is that most of the Capra-Hircus goats do not live in the Himalayas. They live near to the northern border of China, next to Mongolia.

Some people use the word pashmina to describe the fibre. If it comes from the Persian word for wool, or woolen, then this kind of makes sense.

However,it is illegal to label your knitwear or shawl as being made from 100% pashmina if it is made from 100% cashmere, even if it is made from the finest cashmere fibres ever found.

A good question to ask is what was being referred to in the 1850s when the word first came in to use in England. Was it the raw materials or the finished shawl ?

In the bookRevival: The Woollen and Worsted Industries (1907)
by J. H. Clapham
which talks a lot about all the different yarns being imported to be woven, there is not a single mention of pashmina. The fibres being imported was only cashmere. You can search through the text of the book on google books. There is a lot of fascinating information.

So, Mirriam Webster is wrong in it’s first definition, but what about the second definition ?

I think that was correct, but in the last 20-40 years, the meaning has broadened. Whereas a pashmina would have originally been a shawl made from cashmere, now, most people would understand that a pashmina is any shawl or stole that looks like a luxury cashmere and silk shawl. Even if it is made from viscose and costs about £2.50.

Pashminas In Other Materials

Have you ever been to a market and seen a pashmina for £7.99 ?

Guess what ? These pashminas are not made from cashmere and silk. So what could they be made from ?

There are many choices of yarns to make a cheap pashmina. We have a viscose pashmina for sale here at Mypashmina for £12.00. It was discounted last time I checked. Viscose is a semi synthetic fibre.The proper name is viscose rayon.

Viscose rayon is a fiber of regenerated cellulose; it is structurally similar to cotton but may be produced from a variety of plants such as soy, bamboo, and sugar cane. Cellulose is a linear polymer of β-D-glucose units with the empirical formula (C6H10O5)n.[To prepare viscose, dissolving pulp is treated with aqueous sodium hydroxide (typically 16-19% w/w) to form “alkali cellulose,” which has the approximate formula [C6H9O4-ONa]n. The alkali cellulose is then treated with carbon disulfide to form sodium cellulose xanthate.


I was just looking at the other end of the price scale for a pashmina made from the most expensive fibre, vicuna. I found a shawl for €7200 made from this material. The description says ” The vicuna is a mythical animal living mainly in Peru ” ,So I guess it’s not real then!

4 Other Places To Buy A Pashmina ?

Updated December 29th, 2023. Inflation everywhere !

Here are some other pashminas from around the web. I hope this information saves you time. If you came to Mypashmina first, you could waste a few hours looking around other websites or even shops, but you will end up back here. You can never get that time back again. I have just looked up the first 4 that appear when you search ‘pashmina uk’ on Google 

  1. Scarfroom – 70x200cm , pure cashmere ring shawl with open tassels £140. Our 70×200 60/2 yarn pure cashmere pashminas cost  £104 .  Save £36 today !
  2. The Wool Company  – 100% Cashmere , 90x200cm , £164 . Ours cost £119
  3. Pickett – 75x200cm, 70% cashmere / 30% Silk. £145 . Our 90x200cm shawls cost £99 , so it is bigger, better and lower price.
  4. Pashminas & Wraps.  Italian “pashminas”, but made from 65% Polyester / 35% Viscose .  “Pashminas” like these are really cheap. Honestly it is irritating that they can be called pashminas at all. They seem to sell them for £34.99, which is a great business .

Celebrities Who Wear A Pashmina

Does anyone care if an actor, a royal, a politician, a sportsman or a billionaire wears a pashmina ?It seems that many people do. We have delivered to Buckingham Palace and to Downing Street, but who knows who it was intended for. See if you can name these 3 pashmina wearers.

Did you name them ? Great. Now imagine them without their pashminas. They would look so boring and ordinary. That is why it is important to buy a pashmina 😉

5 Ways to Wear A Pashmina

  1. You can wear a pashmina like this:
  2. Or like this :
  3. Or even like this:
  4. This is a nice way to wear a pashmina :
  5. Or how about this one

And you can wear it in many other ways.


I hope you found this article interesting and useful. I like a bit of history and some deeper information. If you have any comments, please leave one below. We love to receive feedback, and other customers like to read your comments too.

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