Tessa Hadley’s latest New Yorker story, “After the Funeral” (archived), is as excellent as I expect from one of my favorite contemporary authors (two quotes I can’t resist sharing: “his face alight with reason and cleverness”; “the closing of the front door […] gave out a certain twanging sound, subdued but resonant, which reached the girls like a signal, resolving something even in the deep chambers of their dreams”), but it’s a reference to “gabardine macs” that led to this post. I knew “gabardine” was some sort of fabric, but what kind exactly? And where did the word come from? The first was simple enough; AHD says “A sturdy, tightly woven fabric of cotton, wool, or rayon twill.” But the second is a ball of confusion. The AHD, s.v. the earlier form gaberdine, says:

[Obsolete French gauvardine, from Old French galvardine, perhaps from Middle High German wallevart, pilgrimage : wallen, to roam (from Old High German wallōn; see wel-² in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) + vart, journey (from Old High German, from faran, to go; see per-² in the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]

OK, wallevart, that’s pretty cool. But the new OED etymology (updated June 2018) tosses out the German form:

Etymology: < Middle French gavardine (1483) < Spanish gabardina (1423), apparently an alteration of tabardina kind of outer garment (1397 as tavardina; < tabardo tabard n. + -ina -ine suffix¹), after gabán (1367 as gavant; < Arabic qabā’: see cabaan n.).
Compare Catalan gavardina (1486), Portuguese gabardina (15th cent.).

There’s no way I’ll ever remember that, but I offer it for your delectation. Also, the original meaning was “An outer garment worn by men, consisting of a loose coat, gown, or smock made from a coarse fabric” (1520   Will of Mathew Beke in G. J. Piccope Lancs. & Cheshire Wills [1857] I. 39   I bequeth unto litill Thomas Beke my gawbardyne to make hym a gowne).


  1. I thought of gabardine as a fancy word for twill, if I thought about it at all. However, there is apparently a little more to it. Britannica says:

    gabardine, any of several varieties of worsted, cotton, silk, and mixed tightly woven fabrics, embodying certain features in common and chiefly made into suits and overcoats . It is a relatively strong and firm cloth, made with a twill weave, and somewhat resembling whipcord but of lighter texture. The weft, or filling, lies entirely at the back and is therefore not visible from the front, a circumstance that allows the use of filling of inferior quality without loss of durability, for only the warp surface is exposed to wear.

    Gabardine was originally a type of waterproofed fabric employed for the manufacture of raincoats. A fabric of a more open and much lighter texture, produced entirely of silk, is called silk, or voile, gabardine.

  2. To finish the story (W-ary):

    Persian قبا (qabâ) ‘long garment, cloak, frock’.

    Etymology: Reborrowed from Arabic قَبَاء‎ (qabāʾ), from Middle Persian kpʾh /kabāh/ (“garment, cloak”). Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kep- (“to split, cut”). Cognate to Central Kurdish کەوا‎ (kewa, “long garment open in front”) and Khotanese khapa (“dress”). Perhaps cognate with Latin cappa (“cape”).

  3. Thanks!

  4. The man in the gabardine suit is a spy.

  5. CuConnacht says

    Wikipedia offers one more etymology:

    A gaberdine or gabardine is a long, loose gown or cloak with wide sleeves, worn by men in the later Middle Ages and into the 16th century.

    In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare uses the phrase “Jewish gaberdine” to describe the garment worn by Shylock, and the term gaberdine has been subsequently used to refer to the overgown or mantle worn by Jews in the medieval era.

    History and etymology

    In the 15th and early 16th centuries, gaberdine (variously spelled gawbardyne, gawberdyne, gabarden, gaberdin, gabberdine) signified a fashionable overgarment, but by the 1560s it was associated with coarse garments worn by the poor. In the 1611 A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, Randle Cotgrave glossed the French term gaban as “a cloake of Felt for raynie weather; a Gabardine” Thomas Blount’s Glossographia of 1656 defined a gaberdine as “A rough Irish mantle or horseman’s cloak, a long cassock”. Aphra Behn uses the term for ‘Holy Dress’, or ‘Friers Habits’ in Abdelazer (1676), Act 2; this in a Spanish setting.

    In later centuries gaberdine was used colloquially for any protective overgarment, including labourers’ smock-frocks and children’s pinafores. It is this sense that led Thomas Burberry to apply the name gabardine to the waterproofed twill fabric he developed in 1879.

    The word comes from Spanish gabardina, Old French gauvardine, galvardine, gallevardine, possibly from the German term Wallfahrt signifying a pilgrim[2] or from kaftan.

  6. J.W. Brewer says

    “Gabardine” is a perfectly good American word, if potentially a teensy bit specialized, but I daresay the relevant sense of “mac” (and thus the compound “gabardine macs”) is a foreignism.* Obviously it’s the New Yorker’s prerogative both to run writing by foreign authors like Tessa Hadley and to run it untranslated.

    *I think I first learned it as a teenager trying to parse lyrics by P. Townsend but it has certainly never entered my active lexicon.

  7. jack morava says

    Is gabardine related to bombazine, or de Nimes for that matter?

  8. I looked this word up just a couple of days ago, after coming across this in a Maigret novel (Liberty Bar):

    ‘Was he wearing this coat here?’
    ‘No, his gabardine…’

    The translation’s pretty clearly British, rather than American.

  9. @J.W. Brewer: I always find it amusing that a Brit goes out in rainy weather wearing a “mackintosh and wellingtons” (or “mac and wellies”), while Americans just wear a “raincoat and boots.”

    Mentioning this also reminded me of this memorable exchange from “Rumpole and the Showfolk,”* between Rumpole and the ambiguously gay house manager, when Rumpole goes to have a look at the theatre where the killing took place.

    Rumpole: It’s what we lawyers call “the locus in quo.”
    Daniel Derwent: Do you really? How frightfully camp of you! It’s what we actors call a “dressing room.”

    * There does not seem to be any legit way to stream Rumpole of the Bailey online at the moment, although most of the episodes are available (as DVD rips, I assume) on Daily Motion.

  10. David Marjanović says

    possibly from the German term Wallfahrt signifying a pilgrim

    I just corrected this to “pilgrimage”.

  11. You have to understand that I am quite drunk.

  12. As an example of how long these things take… it appears that the etymology from a crossing of gaván and tabardina was first published by “Segl” in 1913 in an article (available here) entitled “Spanische Etymologien”, Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie vol. 37, pp. 217–218. Corominas approved the etymology in 1983 in his Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, and from there it reached the Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, vol. 19, p. 73 (under the etymon qabā’) and the Trésor de la langue française, and then finally made its way into the OED, superseding the Middle High German etymology that was originally there in the OED2.

  13. wellies – I learned about them from a tea box. It was advertizing (as it happens with tea boxes) its Englishness an one of picures of iconic English items contained a collection of colourful rubber books identical to those I wore as a child. They were subscribed “wellingtons”. I concluded that English people wear rubber book*ts, call them [W]ellingtons and believe that it is cool.

    Usually when I make this typo, it is boobs>books. Sigh.

  14. The first time I learnt the word “gabardine” I was maybe 13 years old. It was in The Merchant of Venice. Something like:

    “Thou spittest upon my Jewish gabardine”.

    I didn’t have much idea what gabardine was, though.

    Edit: It was actually:

    “You call me an unbeliever, a cut-throat dog, and spit on my Jewish gabardine. And all for using what belongs to me”

  15. Yes, that’s the first citation in the OED’s sense 1b:

    b. Chiefly literary. A long, loose cloak or gown, or (later) an overcoat, supposed to be worn by Jewish men.
    There is no evidence for a specifically Jewish gaberdine, but from 1412 all Moors and Jews in Spain were compelled to wear long robes over their clothes; hence in the Elizabethan theatre there may have been a recognizable Jewish costume.

    1600 W. Shakespeare Merchant of Venice i. iii. 111 You..spet vpon my Iewish gaberdine.
    1602 W. Watson tr. E. Pasquier Iesuites Catech. x. f.28ᵛ Shee was apparrelled like a Iewe, with a great Gaberdine of a tawny cullour.
    1766 T. Smollett Trav. France & Italy I. vi. 96 The skirts of the English descend from the fifth rib to the calf of the leg, and give the coat the form of a Jewish gaberdine.
    1817 M. Edgeworth Harrington & Ormond I. iii. 46 Before his eyes we paraded the effigy of a Jew, dressed in a gabardine of rags and paper.
    1819 W. Scott Ivanhoe I. vii. 99 The very gaberdine I wear is borrowed from Reuben of Tadcaster.
    a1887 E. Lazarus Poems (1888) II. 31 A stone or two flung at some servile form, Liveried in the yellow gaberdine..served at first For chance expression of the rabble’s hate.
    1913 ‘R. Dehan’ Headquarter Recruit xxii. 318 Jews in black silk gaberdines, side-curls, and inverted chimney-pot hats.
    1978 I. B. Singer Shosha i. 4 He wore a short gabardine, a stiff collar, a tie, and kid shoes.
    2002 N. Lebrecht Song of Names vi. 198 He wears a large skullcap and a belted black gaberdine, a capota.

  16. tavardina

    I’m reminded of فروردین/Farvardin:


    From Middle Persian 𐭯𐭫𐭥𐭫𐭲𐭩𐭭‎ (Frawardīn).

    (Classical Persian) IPA(key): [faɾwaɾd̪iːn]
    (Iranian Persian) IPA(key): /fæɾvæɾd̪iːn/

    Proper noun
    فروردین • (farvardin)

    1. Farvardin, the first month of the solar Persian calendar.
    2. Name of the nineteenth day of any month of the solar Persian calendar.

    (No separate entry for Farvardin, though.)

  17. i brought this along:

    Learn to pronounce
    nombre masculino
    Prenda gruesa de vestir de manga larga que cubre el cuerpo hasta debajo de la rodilla, va abierta por delante y se pone sobre otras prendas para proteger el cuerpo del frío; es una prenda básicamente masculina.
    “apareció decorosamente vestido con un viejo gabán abotonado hasta las orejas”
    Ave parecida a la cigüeña, pero con el pico más grueso y el cuello desnudo y de color negro.

  18. The man in the gabardine suit is a spy.

    . . . his bowtie is really a camera . . .

    (No-one else pinged on Simon & Garfunkel?)

  19. Back to fabrics, though:

    Kasuri (絣) is the Japanese term for fabric that has been woven with fibers dyed specifically to create patterns and images in the fabric, typically referring to fabrics produced within Japan using this technique. It is a form of ikat dyeing, traditionally resulting in patterns characterized by their blurred or brushed appearance.[1]

    The warp and weft threads are resist-dyed in specific patterns prior to dyeing, with sections of the warp and weft yarns tightly wrapped with thread to protect them from the dye. When woven together, the undyed areas interlace to form patterns, with many variations — including highly pictographic and multi-colored results — possible to achieve. Kasuri patterns may be applied to either the warp or the weft, or to both in order to create a resulting woven pattern, with the cloth classified using different names depending on the method used.[2]

    Though commonly confused, the terms kasuri and meisen describe different techniques, and are not interchangeable; meisen literally translates as “common silk stuff”, referring to its construction from waste, raw or otherwise-unusable silk threads, woven to create a hard-faced, hard-wearing silk fabric with a slight sheen. Meisen fabrics are very commonly dyed using the kasuri technique, leading to confusion as to the exact definition between the two.

  20. Hogushi kasuri: The undyed warp is woven with a coarse temporary weft. This cloth is then printed with the design. The temporary weft is removed, and the warp is returned to the loom. The cloth is then woven with a plain weft.

    (Kōjien says ‘hogushiGasuri’, though.)

    ほぐし織りWARP PRINT made in JAPAN technology x craftsmanship x WEARABLE ART


    A Greek name?

  21. PlasticPaddy says

    MICHAIL GKINIS ミハイルギニス 略歴
    1973 年 ギリシャ生まれ
    1996 年 ロンドンルートン大学卒業(マーケティング専攻)
    2003年 ロンドンカレッジオブファッション在学中に東京でインターンを経験
    2004 年 ロンドンカレッジオブファッション卒業(ファッションデザイン&テクノロジー)
    2006 年 日本の生地に魅せられて東京に移住
    2007 年 米沢地域資源∞全国展開プロジェクト事業にデザイナーとして参加
    2008 年 東京コレクション 自身のブランドをスタート
    2011 年 TOKYO新人ファッションデザイナー大賞 プロ部門 グランプリ受賞
    2011 年 パリ、インド 、ギリシャでコレクション発表
    2013 年~2016年 中国ブランドのクリエイティブディレクターに就任

  22. Kate Bunting says

    I wore a gabardine raincoat as part of my school uniform in the late 50s/early 60s.The line about Shylock’s gabardine has stuck in my memory since those days, as we studied ‘The Merchant of Venice’ for English ‘O’ Level.

    The original Wellington boot was a leather riding boot popularised by the 1st Duke of Wellington – plainer in style than the earlier Hessian boot, which had a curved top decorated with a tassel. When rubber boots were invented, the name was applied to them because they were the same shape – with a high leg cut off straight at the top.

  23. gabán (1367 as gavant; < Arabic qabā’: see cabaan n.)

    Corriente argues that this must have had an intermediate Italian form to explain the initial /g/, as opposed to its doublet cabaza borrowed directly from Andalusian Arabic.

  24. @PP:
    Arigatō gozaimasu!

  25. The thickness of it all makes the usage in Seinfeld quite confusing!

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