In a discussion of French chapeau ‘hat’ that developed in the meandering course of this thread, our caprine constituent AJP asked “m-l, is there a connection between chapeau and chapel (its current English meaning) based on physical resemblance?” And the learned marie-lucie replied:
AJP, an interesting question! I had to go check in the Trésor de la langue française informatisé … Yes, there is a connection, but it is rather roundabout and has nothing to do with the physical appearance.
In French chapeau (Latin cappellus) and chapelle (Latin cappella) are related to the old word chape which originally meant a kind of cape (Latin cappa), a wraparound garment. There is a well-known story about Saint Martin (the most popular saint in France), who was a Roman officer, cutting his cape in half with his sword and giving one half to a beggar. His own half (or what passed for it) became a relic preserved in a small addition to the palace of Charlemagne, which was named cappella from the cappa that was preserved in it (in French, Charlemagne’s capital Aachen is called Aix-la-Chapelle for this reason). Later the word was applied to such additions to churches (often recesses off the nave), or to small churches dependent on larger ones or built for private use (ie not parish churches).
You would think that, as a noted hat person, I would have known that, but I didn’t. For comparison, here’s the OED’s etymology:
ME. chapele, a. OF. chapele (in ONF. capele, Pr. capella, It. cappella):—late L. cappella, orig. little cloak or cape, dim. of cappa, cloak, cape, cope (see CAP). From the cappella or cloak of St. Martin, preserved by the Frankish kings as a sacred relic, which was borne before them in battle, and used to give sanctity to oaths, the name was applied to the sanctuary in which this was preserved under the care of its cappellani or ‘chaplains’, and thence generally to a sanctuary containing holy relics, attached to a palace, etc., and so to any private sanctuary or holy place, and finally to any apartment or building for orisons or worship, not being a church, the earlier name for which was oratorium, ORATORY.
Our m-l definitely wins for both concision and narrative oomph.
(Somehow, “Goin’ to the oratory and we’re… gonna get ma-a-a-ried” doesn’t have the same ring.)