Glossary of some medieval clothing terms

Compiled by I. Marc Carlson.

Unlike many glossaries or lexicons, the definitions given here are not monocular, they have not been drawn together and written as a single source presenting The Truth.   These are generally separate definitions drawn from a number of sources.  That means that as you look through here, you may notice definitions that may conflict with one another, or what you have been taught elsewhere. As virtually nearly everything in here is a paraphrase, or a direct quotation of some other stated source, this means that if you disagree with what a particular source has to say about something, there's not much I can do about it.  My opinions will be noted in italics (if you disagree with those, I'll be happy to talk about them with you).

I have chosen this technique because I do not pretend to be an expert in this field.   For the most part, I am simply a conduit for information.  When a term has arisen, I have started researching it by examine what the Oxford English Dictionary (2d Ed.) as a baseline.  That means that if you see material that is neither in quotations, with a clear citation, or set off in italics, it is either a quotation or a paraphrase of material in the OED2.  This does not mean that I think the OED is the best source available - it has a number of flaws.  It is, however, a generally accepted source for quality definitions.

Material that has been set off in italics are either titles or works, special words, or my own opinions.

Aglets (Aigulettes)


Amice, Aumusse, Amusse

Armscye (Armseye)


Belt, Cingulum, Girdle



Bliaut (Bliaud, Bliaus, Bliant, Bliaunt, Bliand)






1 brc, (brc), 3 brych, 3-5 brech, 4-6 breche, 4-7 breeche, 6 breache, briech, bryche, 6-7 breetch, 7 brich, 7- britch, 9 breach, 5- breech. [Com. Teut.: OE. brc (brec), pl. of *brc fem. = OFris. brk, pl. brk, (MDu. broec, Du. broek), OHG. bruoh (MHG. bruoch, mod.Ger. bruch, obs. in 18th c., but still in Switz. pl. brch), ON. brk, pl. btype *brk-s fem. monosyl. 'article of clothing for the loins and thighs'.  Often stated to be an adoption of L. broca (also broca, bracca), or its Gaulish original, which was app. *brocca, clothing for the legs ('barbara tegmina crurum'; Vergil n. XI. 777); but *brk-s has all the marks of an original Teutonic word = Aryan *bhrg-s. The Celtic brocca is considered by Dr. Whitley Stokes to be phonetically descended from an earlier *brog-na, a derivative of the same root bhrog-, and so cognate with the Teutonic.]




Forms: 4-6 calle, 6 caull(e, 6-7 call, cal, kall, caule, cawle, 7 kal, kaull, kawle, 7-9 cawl, 7- caul. [a. F. cale a kind of small cap or head-dress.]

Chainse, Cainsil, Chaisel, Ceisil

[a. OF. cheisil, chesil, var. of cheincil, chensil, chansilh, cainsil: lateL. camisole, -is (8th c. in Du Cange), f. camisia]


6-7 chapperon, 7 chapron, chapperoon, shaparoon, shaparowne, shabbaron, 7-9 chaperoon. [a. F. chaperon hood, a kind of dim. deriv. of chape cope, cape (cf. moucheron gnat, f. mouche fly); also used in sense 3 (in which English writers often erroneously spell it chaperone, app. under the supposition that it requires a fem. termination).]


In 5 chauces, 6 chauses. [a. OF. chauces, mod.F. chausses = Pr. calsas, caussas, Sp. calzas, Pg. calas, It. calze, calzi, med.L. calcias, pl. of calcia, clothing for the legs, trousers, breeches, pantaloons, drawers, hose, stockings; f. L. calceus, calcius, shoe, half-boot. Formerly naturalized

Chemise (Camise, Kamise)

Cloak (Cloke/Chape [Kape])


3-7 coyfe, 4-5 coyffe, coyf, 6 coiffe, 6-7 coife, quoife, 7-9 quoif, 5- coif; (also 4 koife, coyif, coyphe, 5 koyf, 7 koyfe, 8 quoiff; 6 Sc. kuafe, queif, quayf, 7 quaiffe, quaife). [ME. coyfe, a. OF. coife, coiffe (= Prov. cofa, Sp. cofia, Pg. coifa, It. cuffia): late L. *cuffia (cofea in Venant. Fortunatus, cuphia in Alcuin), supposed by Diez and others to represent an OHG. *kupphja, deriv. of OHG. chuppha, MHG. kupfe cap.]

Cope (Cape)



Forms: 4-9 corsette, 5 corsete, coursette, 9 corsett, 5- corset. [a. F. corset (13th c. in Littr), dim. of OF. cors body.]


Cotehardie  (Cote - Hardi; Cottehardie)


Forms: 4-5 courtepy, -by, kourtepy, courtpy, curt(e)by, -py, 5 cowrt(e)by, (cowrbe, 6 courtby, 7-9 courtpie, cote-a-pye). [app. a. MDu. korte pe, i.e. korte short + pe, coat of coarse woollen stuff, now pij: cf. coat, -jacket.]


Culot, Culotte


Daggings, Dagged





False Sleeves


4 filete, philett, 4-5 felet(t, 5 filett, 5-6 fi-, fylette, south. vylette, 6 fyllet(t, (6 fylet, fillott, 7 filot, 7-8 fillit(t), 6-7 phillet, 4-7 filet, 6- fillet. [a. Fr. filet = Pr. filet, Sp. filete, It. filetto, a Com. Romanic diminutive of L. filum thread.]


4 gaumbisoun, (campeson), 4-5 gambisoun(e, 5 gambesoun, gambassoune, gamesun, (-son), 7 gambesone, 9 gambeson, (-soon). [a. OF. gambison, gambeison, wambizon, etc. = Pr. gambaiso, med.L. gambesen-em. A shorter form appears in OF. gambais, wambais, Pr. gambais, OSp. gambax = med.L. gambesum, wambas-ium.
  The forms seem to descend from a Rom. type wambsio (subj.), wambesine (obj.), commonly taken to be an adoption of some compound or derivative of OTeut. wamb belly The MHG. wambeis, wambes (mod. Ger. wamms), Du. wambuis, wammes, were adopted from OF.]

Gardecorpe (Garde-corps)

Forms: 4 wardecors, -corps, 5 ward(e) corce, wardcors(e, (wardecose, wardcorpse). [a. AF. wardecors (recorded in sense 2; also latinized wardecosia, wordecorsum, etc.) = OF. gardecorps; f. OF. warde, f. warde-r = garder to guard]

Garnache, Ganache


Gonelle, Gonne



4-6 goun(e, 4-7 gowne, (6 Sc. gounn, 8-9 vulgar gownd), 4- gown. [a. OF. goune, gone, gonne fem., a Com. Rom. word = Pr. gona, OSp. gona, It. gonna: med.L. gunna, used in the 8th c. by St. Boniface for a garment of fur permitted to elderly or infirm monks. A late L. gunna 'skin, fur', is quoted from a scholiast on Verg. Georg. III. 383, and in Byzantine Gr. common as the name of a coarse garment, sometimes described as made of skins.
  The origin of the Rom. word is obscure. Some scholars regard it as of Celtic origin, comparing the Welsh gn, Irish fan 'lacerna', which are referred by Stokes (Fick's Idg. Wb.4 II. 281) to an OCeltic *vo-ouno-, f. vo- (= Gr.under) + root ou- to clothe  But Loth (Rev. Celt. XX. 353) raises phonological objections, and believes the Welsh word to be adopted from Eng. (as are the Irish gnn, Gael. gn, Manx goon). In any case the Celtic origin of the Rom. word does not seem to accord with the geographical probabilities. Albanian has gun cloak, but it is uncertain whether this is native or adopted from Gr.]

Gupe, Jupe, Jipe

Gipon, Gypon, , Gippon, Jupon, Jupel

Habergeon, Haubergeon






Heuze, Houseaux

Hood (German Caproen)

Hose (German ? Couse, Kouse)

Houpelande (German Houppelande; ? Hoplande)


Houve, Hoove, Huve

Huke, Haik, Heyke, Huque








Liripipe, Liripoop


Mantle, Mantel



Moufles, Mitons

Nebulae Headdress

Parti-coloured Dress


Phrygian Cap

Points, Aglets, Dags


Ramshorn Headdress


Robe Deguisee

Robe Gironee








Sideless Gown

Skull Cap

Small Clothes



Suckeny; Suckeney (French Sorquanie)

Surcote (Sur 'over' - Cote)

Surcot Ouvert






Troues (Trewes)







This page was last updated 7 December 2002

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Some Sources (and some commentary):

I am under the impression this is a beloved source, and it does seem pretty good.   There are a few mistakes here and there in the text (mostly of typographical), but keeping that in mind it seems pretty reliable.

The author of this work died before the final work was finished, and so I shouldn't criticize the work too badly as I have no idea what it would have been like had she lived.   On the other hand, what we have has some problems, not the least of which is credibility.  There are sufficient flaws in the topics I do know about, that using her for the things I don't know about makes me a bit leery.

Reprinting the 1885 work.

A lovely beginner's book and written to present the information, pre-digested to an audience that doesn't have time to mess with research.  For that reason, the authors don't cite their material, and it's practically impossible to back track their work.   If you are doing historical costumes, use the book -- if you are researching historical accuracy, use with caution.

A standard work among amateurs.  What doesn't seem to be generally realized is that it is a reprint of a 1928 text, translated from an 1870s German original (Praktische Kostmkunde), with some stuff tossed in to make it up to date for 1928.

I confess to a weakness.  I like Norris.  His work on ecclesiastical clothing is really well done enough to make me willing to forgive some of the flaws in this more general survey -- and this is a deeply flawed work.  The text is easy to digest, the pictures are pretty, and not generally inaccurate -- of course many of those are cribbed from Eugne-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionnaire raisonn du mobilier franais de l'poque carlovingienne la renaissance. Paris : Bance, 1858-1875.  Norris is also responsible for some of the worst information to be transmitted to costumers.  He doesn't cite the work particularly well, or particularly thoroughly, and there I have heard people accuse him of making material up.  I wouldn't go THAT far, but I would suggest that if all you are doing is simple historical costumes, use the book if you want to -- if you are researching historical accuracy, use with caution.  In either case, don't brag about it, or else you may get to hear all sorts of nasty things.

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This page was last modified 24 September 2003

Some Clothing of the Middle Ages - Glossary, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1999, 2002, 2003. This code is given for the free exchange of information, provided the Author's Name is included in all future revisions, and no money change hands.