Technology Talks

Tech Made Simple With Expert Talks

Some Fun with Antiquated Hat Terms – Part 1 Ancient Greece through Medieval European Helmets

Some Fun with Antiquated Hat Terms – Part 1 Ancient Greece through Medieval European Helmets

Some obscure and unusual words come to light while looking back at the history of headgear. Having recently finished reading THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins 1998) about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, I thought it might be fun to explore the definitions and etymology of some of these ancient terms, most of which have all but disappeared from modern use. [I’ll breakup this project into three or four parts, so stay tuned.]

To qualify for inclusion below, the word must show up with a squiggly red line at Microsoft Word’s “spell check” tool. So here goes:


Forms: 15- petasus, 18- petasos.


[L. tutulus.]

A Roman head-dress formed by plaiting the hair in a cone above the forehead, worn esp. by the Flamen and his wife.

1753 CHAMBERS Cycl. Supp., Tutulus, among the Romans, a manner of dressing the hair, by gathering it up on the forehead into the form of a tower… Tutulus likewise signified a woollen cap with a high top. 1816 J. DALLAWAY Statuary & Sculpt. vi. 321 The head-dress is that of the wife of a pontifex,..the tutulus or top of the hair is rolled with a lace round the crown of the head. 1891 FARRAR Darkn. & Dawn xxvi, Domitia Lepida, whose tutulus, or conical head~dress, it was the exclusive task of a slave-maiden to adorn.



[Late OE. wimpel = (M)LG., (M)Du. wimpel, OHG. wimpal veil, banner (MHG., G. wimpel streamer, pennon), ON. vimpill (Sw., Da. vimpel from LG.), whence OF. guimple (mod. F. guimpe), of which the variant wimple coincided with the native form. Ultimate origin uncertain.

It is doubtful whether the senses provisionally placed together here and under the vb. belong all to the same word. In branch II there may be an onomatop ic element; for formation and meaning cf. dimple, rimple, rumple, wrimple.]

I. 1. A garment of linen or silk formerly worn by women, so folded as to envelop the head, chin, sides of the face, and neck: now retained in the dress of nuns. Also gen. a veil.

Used loosely in early glossaries as a rendering of L. anabola, cyclas, peplum, ricinum.
a1100 Aldhelm Gloss. I. 4296 (Napier 112) Cyclade, .i. ueste, wimple. a1100 Gloss. in Wr.-Wülcker 107/37 Ricinum, winpel uel orl. Ibid. 125/8 Anabola, winpel. c1200 Trin. Coll. Hom. 163 Hire winpel wit o er maked eleu mid saffran. c1240 Ancr. R. 420 (MS. C), Sum sei æt hit limpe to ene wummon cundeliche forte were wimpel. c1250 Meid. Maregrete xlvii, oru e mitte of ih christ, wid her wempel ho hin bond. 1297 R. GLOUC. (Rolls) 6941 Hire bodi wi a mantel, a wimpel [v.r. whympel] aboute hire heued. c1374 CHAUCER Troylus II. 110 Do a-woy oure wimpil & schew oure face bare. c1386 Prol. 151 Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was. 14.. Voc. in Wr.-Wülcker 601/43 Peplum, a wynpul. c1425 WYNTOUN Cron. IX. xxv. 2992 Hyre hayre in wompyll arayande. c1440 Gesta Rom. lxix. 317 The emperesse hydde hire face with a wympill, for she wolde not ben y-knowe. 1513 DOUGLAS Æneis I. vii. 115 To ask supple, with thaim ane womple bair thai, With handis betand ther breistis by the way. c1530 Crt. Love 1102 And eke the nonnes, with vaile and wimple plight. 1560 Bible (Genev.) Isa. iii. 22 The costelie apparel and the vailes, and the wimpels, and the crisping pinnes. 1805 SCOTT Last Minstr. V. xvii, White was her whimple, and her veil. 1819 Ivanhoe xlii, Her flowing wimple of black cypress. 1879 WALFORD Londoniana II. 247 Three nuns with veils and whimples.
transf. 1615 CROOKE Body of Man 123 A certaine smooth and slippery veyle or wimple is substrated. 1861 A. AUSTIN in Temple Bar III. 472 Graves are the sheltering wimples Against Life’s rain.

2. A flag, streamer. [An alien sense.]
1656 BLOUNT Glossogr., Wimple..a Streamer or Flag.

II. 3. A fold or wrinkle; a turn, winding, or twist; a ripple or rippling in a stream.
1513 DOUGLAS Æneis II. iv. 30 Bot thai about him lowpit in wympillis [orig. spiris] threw. 1593 NASHE Christ’s T. 74b, Be not more curious of a wimple or spot in thy vesture, then thou art of spotting and thorow-stayning thy deere bought Spyrit.
1818 HOGG Brownie of Bodsbeck xii. I. 225 A shepherd..hates the wimples, as he calls them, of a turnpike. Ibid. xiv. II. 22 He had as mony links an’ wimples in his tail as an eel. 1845 ELIZA COOK Waters i, Waters, bright Waters,..your wimple just lulleth the minnow to sleep! 1878 STEVENSON Will o’ Mill, Parson’s Marj., The river ran between the stepping-stones with a pretty wimple.

4. A crafty turn or twist; a wile. Sc.
1638 SIR A. JOHNSTON Diary (S.H.S.) 320 Notwithstanding al wyles, wimples, offers, motions, and uther letts. 1755 R. FORBES Ajax’s Sp. 24 The gouden helmet will sae glance, An blink wi’ skyrin brinns, That a’ his wimples they’ll find out Fan i’ the mark he sheens. 1818 SCOTT Hrt. Midl. xxiv, There is aye a wimple in a lawyer’s clew.

Hence wimple-less a., not wearing a wimple.
a1225 Ancr. R. 420 if e muwen beon wimpel-leas, beo bi warme keppen.


[a. OF. ventaille, -taile, ventalle (mod.F. ventail masc., = OProv. ventalha, It. ventaglia), f. vent wind, air. Hence also MHG. vin-, finteile, vintale. A purely English variant is AVENTAIL.

As the sense of ‘breathing-place’ appears to be inapplicable to the earliest use of the word (see sense 1) in French and English, the name may originally have been given to the piece of armour from a real or fancied resemblance to some other article so designated. Other senses of the OF. word (and of the related forms ventele, ventail, and vental) are fan, vane (of a windmill), sluice, shutter, leaf (of a folding door or picture). In OF. romances the ventaille is freq. mentioned as covering the heart or breast: cf. Chaucer Clerk’s Tale 1148.]

1. A piece of armour protecting the neck, upon which the helmet fitted; a neck-piece. Obs.

a1330 Roland & V. 863 His ventail he gan vn-lace & smot of his heued in e place. 13.. Guy Warw. (A.) 92 His helme was of so michel mi t, Was neuer man ouer-comen in fi t at hadde it on his ventayle. a1400 Sir Perc. 1722 He hitt hym evene one the nekk-bane, Thurgh ventale and pesane. c1400 Laud Troy Bk. 14375 Her helmes were on her ventayles sperde. c1450 LOVELICH Grail XIV. 33 Helmes, hawberkes, & ventaylles also, Alle to the Grownde he dyde hem go.

a1400 Sqr. lowe Degre 222 Your basenette shall be burnysshed bryght, Your ventall shalbe well dyght, With starres of gold it shall be set.

2. The lower movable part of the front of a helmet, as distinct from the vizor; latterly, the whole movable part including the vizor.
c1400 Destr. Troy 7030 The duke with a dynt derit hym agayn, at the viser & the ventaile voidet hym fro. c1400 Anturs of Arth. xxxii, Then he auaylet vppe his viserne fro his ventalle. c1470 Gol. & Gaw. 867 He braidit vp his ventaill, That closit wes clene. a1533 LD. BERNERS Huon cxxiv. 448 Vnder the ventayle of his helme the terys of water fell downe fro his eyen. 1590 SPENSER F.Q. III. ii. 24 Through whose bright ventayle..His manly face..lookt foorth. 1600 FAIRFAX Tasso VI. xxvi, He ventall vp so hie, that he descride Her goodly visage, and her beauties pride. 1802 JAMES Milit. Dict., Ventail, that part of a helmet which is made to lift up. 1865 SIR J. K. JAMES Tasso XX. xii, Thro’ the barred ventayle his flushed features shone. [1869 BOUTELL Arms & Armour viii. 127 This piece, called the mesail, or mursail,..but more generally known in England as the ventaile, or visor, was pierced for both sight and breathing.] 1906 S. HEATH Effigies in Dorset 10 Some~times with a movable ‘ventaille’ or visor.

b. One of the vents or air-holes of this. Obs. 1
1470-85 MALORY Arthur X. lx. 516 The blood brast oute at the ventayls of his helme.

3. Something acting as a sail or fan. Obs.
a1529 SKELTON Col. Cloute 400 [The nuns] Must cast vp theyr blacke vayles, And set vp theyr fucke sayles, To catch wynde with their ventales.


[a. F. salade, ad. Sp. celada or It. celata, believed to represent L. cæl ta (sc. cassis or galea), (a helmet) ornamented with engraving. Cf. MDu. salade, sallade, salla.

The L. adj. has not been found in this elliptical use. Cf. ‘loricæ galeæque aeneæ, cælatæ opere Corinthio’ (Cicero).]

1. In mediæval armour, a light globular headpiece, either with or without a vizor, and without a crest, the lower part curving outwards behind.
c1440 Eng. Conq. Irel. iv. 11 (MS. Rawl.), Ham-Selfe wel wepenyd with haubergeons, and bryght Salletis and sheldys. 1465 MARG. PASTON in P. Lett. II. 189 Imprimis, a peyr brygandyrs, a salet, a boresper [etc.]. 1480 CAXTON Chron. Eng. cclv. (1482) 331 He toke syr vmfreys salade and his brigantyns..and also his gylt spores and arayd hym lyke a lord. c1537 Thersytes 55, I wolde have a sallet to were on my hed, Whiche under my chyn with a thonge red Buckeled shall be. 1585 T. WASHINGTON tr. Nicholay’s Voy. IV. xxviii. 146b, On their heads [they] hadde sallets of leather. 1593 SHAKES. 2 Hen. VI, IV. x. 9 Many a time but for a Sallet, my braine-pan had bene cleft with a brown Bill. 1594 R. ASHLEY tr. Loys le Roy 113b, The men that were heauily armed had a salade, which couered their head, and came downe as far as their shoulders. a1600 Floddan F. ii. (1664) 12 Some of a share can shortly make A sallate for to save his pate. 1786 GROSE Anc. Armour 11 The Salade, Salet, or Celate. Father Daniel defines a Salet to be a sort of light casque, without a crest, sometimes having a visor, and being sometimes without one. 1824 MEYRICK Ant. Armour III. Gloss., Salett,..a light head piece sometimes worn by the cavalry, but generally by the infantry and archers. It..was generally a steel cap greatly resembling the morian. 1844 JAMES Agincourt II. v. 109 He caused his archers to put on the cuirasses and salades. 1888 STEVENSON Black Arrow 4 Armed with sword and spear, a steel salet on his head, a leather jack upon his body.

b. jocularly referred to as a measure for wine.
1600 HEYWOOD 1st Pt. Edw. IV (1613) Cj, Make a proclamation..That..Sacke be sold by the Sallet.

c. transf. Headpiece, head. nonce-use.
1652 C. B. STAPYLTON Herodian 56 When Wine was got into his drunken Sallat.

2. Some kind of iron vessel. Obs.
1472-3 Rolls of Parlt. VI. 51/2 With fyere brought with theym in a Salette thider. 1507-8 Acc. Ld. High Treas. Scot. IV. 101 Item, for ane sellat to mak gwn powdir vijs. 1582 J. HESTER Secr. Phiorav. III. cxvi. 141 Sette the same potte in a Sallette of Iron, and lute them close together.

Hence saletted a., wearing a sallet.
1455 Coventry Leet Bk. (E.E.T.S.) 282 An hundred of goode-men..with bowes & arowes, Jakked & saletted. 1461 J. PASTON in P. Lett. II. 36 The peple was jakkyd and saletted, and riottously disposed.


[a. F. armet, also in OF. armette, dim. of arme.]

A kind of helmet introduced about the middle of the 15th century, in place of the basinet. It consisted of a globular iron cap, spreading out with a large hollowed projection over the back of the neck, and protected in front by the visor, beaver, and gorget. (Boutell.)
1507 Justes May & June 87 in Hazl. E.P.P. II. 124 They spared not cors, armyt, nor yet vambrace. 1577 HOLINSHED Chron. III. 853/1 Foure headpieces called armites. 1795 SOUTHEY Joan of Arc Wks. IX. 279 Smote on his neck, his neck Unfenced, for he in haste aroused had cast An armet on.


Obs. exc. Hist.
Also 6 burguenet, (burgant), 6-7 burgenet, 6-9 burganet, 9 bourginot, -goinette. [ad. OF. bourguignotte, app. f. Bourgogne Burgundy.]

a. A very light casque, or steel cap, for the use of the infantry, especially pikemen. b. A helmet with a visor, so fitted to the gorget or neck-piece, that the head could be turned without exposing the neck.
[1598 BARRET Theor. Warres Gloss. 249 Burgonet, a French word, is a certaine kind of head-peece, either for foote or horsemen, couering the head, and part of the face and cheeke.]

1563-87 FOXE A. & M. (1596) 1083/1 I was page to a foot~man, carying after him his pike and burganet. 1570-87 HOLINSHED Scot. Chron. (1806) II. 255 His burguenet beaten into his head. 1592 GREENE Upst. Court. Wks. (Grosart) XI. 235 With Burgants to resist the stroke of a Battleaxe. 1611 SPEED Hist. Gt. Brit. VIII. v. (1632) 407 On their heads they all wore guilt Burgenets. 1796 SOUTHEY Joan VII. 296 A massy burgonet..helming his head. 1825 J. H. WIFFEN Tasso VII. xc, The glistening burganet that veils His brows. 1834 J. R. PLANCHÉ Brit. Costume 280 A morion and bourginot of the same period. 1852 D. MOIR Tomb de Bruce v, In the hall hung the target and burgonet rusting.
fig. 1606 SHAKES. Ant. & Cl. I. v. 24 [Antony] The demy Atlas of this Earth, the Arme And Burganet of men.


Armour. Now hist.

Obs. rare.
[Fr.; dim. of cabas basket, panier, etc.]

A kind of small helmet.
1622 PEACHAM Compl. Gentl. III. (1634) 150 Keyes, lockes, buckles, cabassets or morians, helmets and the like. 1874 BOUTELL Arms & Arm. ix. 162.


[a ME. (= the OF.) form of QUAINTISE, ‘quaint device, ingenious ornament’, appropriated to a special sense by modern writers on ancient costume, historical novelists, etc. (Some Dicts. have an erroneous form cointoise.)]

An elegant or fanciful dress, symbolical or ornamental apparel; esp. the pendant scarf worn on ladies’ head-dresses, and also affixed to the jousting-helmets of knights, as a ‘favour’. See QUAINTISE.

1834 J. R. PLANCHÉ Brit. Costume 93 This latter is called a quintis or cointise, a name given to a peculiarly fashioned gown or tunic of that day. Ibid. 94 The scarf afterwards worn round the crest of the helmet was called a cointise. 1843 JAMES Forest Days (1847) 181 The beautiful scarfs, called cointises, then lately introduced.