What is the difference between a cobweb and a spider web?
We are all familiar with the jumbled tangle of loosely woven webs that the common house spider spins in the nooks and crannies of our homes and other buildings. People sometimes call these spider webs “cobwebs” when they have collected dust and dirt. But actually, there is no difference between a cobweb and a spider web.
The word “cobweb” is a good example of how words change over a long period of time. Long ago, the word for spider was “coppe”. And “web” comes from another old word “wefan,” meaning to weave. So we have coppe (spider) was plus web, or “coppeweb.” Later, coppeweb was shortened to “copweb”, and finally to “cobweb.” So cobweb actually means the web spun by a spider.
Wherever the house spider goes, it spins a silken line behind it. This dragline, or guiding line, may be anchored at intervals to the wall or ceiling on which it crawls, in much the same way a mountain climber lets our rope as the climbs down a deep slope. In houses as these draglines become heavy with dust, they break loose, hanging from the ceiling and walls as dusty cobwebs. – Dick Rogers