A chamois is the name assigned to the pad that is inserted in riding shorts. You can obtain it now in the ever laughable Lycra-type cycling shorts, in inserts that a rider can wear UNDER one's regular clothes or inpadding in commuter-type shorts that may look like regular pedal pushersor Capri's but have a magic, comfy padding in the crotch area.
I first heard of a chamois cloth, pronounced 'shammy' , when someone was discussing car washing. Apparently, chamois cloth is also very kind to one's vehicle and therefore has been used by individuals to wash or dry cars or in automated car wash equipment. The name chamois was assigned to a natural product that was made, and still is made, from sheepskin leather as a very soft, very strong, absorbent materials. The product we know as chamois today is usually made of a microfiber cloth or strong weave cloth encompassing a foam or gel.
If you are getting into cycling, you will want to pay as much attention to the shorts you choose for yourself as you did for the bicycle you bought. It is THAT important. Don't scrimp on the chamois..it means how long you can stay in the saddle. My favorite shorts are Performance Gel Shorts II. There are thousands of bike shorts on the market today but these are the very best for me when I am planning on being on my bike saddle for longer than 90 minutes. For those rides of under 90 minutes, I like to use tri shorts for short rides, because they are shorter and the riding lines from the sun are not as low on my legs.