Ikat is actually pronounced with a long E (like 'ee-kat'). The word originated in the Indonesian and Japanese language. In its simplest form, the word means "to bind" or "to wind around". This correlates with the method used to create the ikat threads by wrapping, dying, sorting, re-wrapping, and dying once again. The word has evolved into a generic English word that describes the cloth itself, or the process of making the fabric. The ikat designs are most notably associated with the elaborate designs from Japan, South America, and Central Asia.
Ikat is actually a dyeing technique. It is used to pattern textiles using a process called 'resist dyeing'. Resist dyeing uses methods that prevent the dye from reaching all of the cloth or fibers to create a unique pattern. This can also be a mechanical resist, where tying or stitching manipulates the cloth.
This creates elaborate, multi-colored patterns. When all of the dyeing is complete, the weaving of the fabric takes place.