Some fun with old-fashioned hat terms – Part 1 Ancient Greece through medieval European helmets

Some dark and unusual words come to light when looking back at the history of headgear. Having recently finished reading THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins 1998) about the creation 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 it disappeared from modern usage. [I’ll breakup this project into three or four parts, so stay tuned.]

To qualify for inclusion below, the word must appear with a wavy red line in Microsoft Word’s “spell check” tool. So here it goes:


Shapes: 15- petasus, 18- petasos.



[L. tutulus.]

A Roman headdress formed by braiding the hair in a cone on the forehead, specially worn. by the Flamen and his wife.

1753 CHAMBERS Cycl. Sup., Tutulus, among the Romans, a way of dressing hair, gathering it on the forehead in the form of a tower … Tutulus also meant a woolen cap with a high point. 1816 J. DALLAWAY Statues and sculptures. saw. 321 The headdress is that of the wife of a pontifex, .. the tutulus or the upper part of the hair is wound with a cord around the crown. 1891 FARRAR Darkn. & Dawn xxvi, Domitia Lepida, whose tutulus, or conical headdress, was the exclusive task of a slave 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 previously worn by women, folded so that it wraps around the head, chin, sides of the face, and neck; now it is preserved in the clothing of the nuns. Also gen. wake up.

It is used loosely in early glossaries as an interpretation of L. anabola, cyclas, peplum, ricinum.

a1100 Aldhelm Gloss. 4296 (Napier 112) Cyclade, .i. Hey, wimple. a1100 Brightness. in Wr.-Wülcker 107/37 Ricinum, winpel uel orl. Ibid. 125/8 Anabola, winpel. c1200 Trin. Coll. Hom. 163 Hire winpel with offer 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 de ih christ, with its link wempel ho hin. 1297 R. GLOUC. (Rolls) 6941 Hire bodi with a ledge, a wimpel [v.r. whympel] aboute rent heued. c1374 CHAUCER Troylus II. 110 Make un-woy oure wimpil & schew our 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 rents expensive with a wympill, because she does not wolde ben y-knowe. 1513 DOUGLAS Æneis I. vii. 115 To order flexible, with thaim ane womple bair thai, With handis betand ther breistis by the way. c1530 Crt. Ama 1102 And do the foolish thing, with vain and fragile situation. 1560 Bible (Genesis) Isa. iii. 22 The costelie clothes and the vailes, and the wimpels, and the crisp pinnes. 1805 SCOTT Last Minstr. V. xvii, white was her crybaby and her veil. 1819 Ivanhoe xlii, His flowing crevice of black cypress. 1879 WALFORD Londoniana II. 247 Three nuns with veils and whimpers.

transf. 1615 CROOKE Body of Man 123 A certain smooth and slippery veil or wimple is removed. 1861 A. AUSTIN at Temple Bar III. 472 Tombs are shelters from the rain of life.

2. A flag, serpentine. [An alien sense.]

1656 BLOUNT Glossogr., Wimple..a streamer or flag.

II. 3. A crease or crease; a twist, a winding or a twist; a ripple or ripple in a stream.

1513 DOUGLAS Æneis II. iv. 30 Bot thai on him lowpit in wympillis [orig. spiris] daring. 1593 NASHE Christ’s T. 74b, Do not be more curious about a scratch or stain on your clothing, then you will be staining and stopping your Spyrit purchased deere.

1818 HOGG Brownie from Bodsbeck xii. I. 225 A shepherd … hates the vagaries, as he calls them, of a turnpike. Ibid. xiv. II. 22 He had money bows and ankles on his tail like an eel. 1845 ELIZA COOK Waters, waters, luminous waters … your stump has just lulled the minnow to sleep! 1878 STEVENSON Will o ‘Mill, Parson’s Marj., The river ran between the steps with a nice cap.

4. A clever twist or twist; a cunning. South Carolina.

1638 Diary of SIR A. JOHNSTON (SHS) 320 Notwithstanding all wyles, wimples, offers, motions and other letts. 1755 R. FORBES Ajax’s Sp. 24 The gouden helmet sae a glance, A blink with skyrin brinns, That to ‘their wimples will discover Fan i’ the brand that shines. 1818 SCOTT Hrt. Midl. xxiv, Yes there is a touch in the ball of a lawyer.

Therefore, without a turntable a., Without using a turntable.

a1225 Ancr. R. 420 si 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 armor that protects the neck, over which the helmet fits; one piece for the neck. Obs.

a1330 Roland & V. 863 Your sale won vn-lace & smot from your heued in place. 13 .. Guy Warw. (A.) 92 His helmet was so michel my t, He was never more man ouer-eat in t in the hadde in his vendeyle. a1400 Sir Perc. 1722 Hitt hym evene one the nekk-bane, Thurgh ventale y pesane. c1400 Laud Troy Bk. 14375 His helmets were in his vendayles sperm. c1450 LOVELICH Grail XIV. 33 Helmes, Hawberkes and Ventaylles too, Alle to the Grownde he dyde hem go.

a1400 square feet lowe Degre 222 Your basement will be burned by fire, Your window will be well lit, With gold stars it will be set.

2. The movable underside of the front of a helmet, as opposed to the visor; lastly, the entire moving part, including the viewer.

c1400 Destr. Troy 7030 The duke with a dynt derit hym agayn, in the viser and the ventaile voidet hym fro. c1400 Anturs of Art. xxxii, then auaylet vppe su viserne fro his ventalle. c1470 Goal. & Gaw. 867 Braidit vp su ventaill, which closes wes clene. a1533 LD. BERNERS Huon cxxiv. 448 Under the window of his helmet, the hot springs fell from his eyes. 1590 SPENSER FQ III. ii. 24 Through whose shining verandayle..His manly face..looks forward. 1600 FAIRFAX Tasso VI. xxvi, I have sold it vp so hie, that he described His beautiful face and the pride of its beauties. 1802 JAMES Milit. Dict. Ventail, the part of a helmet that is made to stand up. 1865 SIR JK JAMES Tasso XX. XII, Through the barred ventayle, his flushed features glowed. [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 Sometimes with a movable ‘window’ or visor.

B. One of its vents or vents. Obs. 1

1470-85 MALORIA Arthur X. lx. 516 The blow of blood on the windows of his helmet.

3. Something that acts like a candle or fan. Obs.

a1529 SKELTON Col. Asparagus 400 [The nuns] You must launch vp theyr blacke vayles, And set vp theyr fucke sayles, To catch wynde with your windows.



[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 medieval armor, a light globular headdress, with or without a visor, and without a crest, the lower part curved outwards backwards.

c1440 Eng. Conq. Go the. 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. Ing. Cclv. (1482) 331 Toke syr vmfreys salade and his bandits … and also his gylt spores and a hymn from arayd to lord. c1537 Thersytes 55, I would have a sallet to be in my hed, what under my chyn with a Buckeled red Thonge will be. 1585 T. WASHINGTON tr. I’m going from Nicholay. IV. xxviii. 146b, over their heads [they] hadde leather sallets. 1593 SHAKES. 2 hen. VI, IV. X. 9 Many times, except for a Sallet, my brain pot had a indentation with a brown spout. 1594 R. ASHLEY tr. Loys le Roy 113b, The heavily armed men had a salad that covered their heads and reached their shoulders. to 1600 Floddan F. ii. (1664) 12 A part of an action can soon make a jump to save his pate. 1786 GROSE Anc. Armor 11 La Salade, Salet or Celate. Father Daniel defines a Salet as a kind of light helmet, without a shield, sometimes with a visor and others without a visor. 1824 MEYRICK Ant. Armor III. Gloss., Salett, .. a light head piece sometimes worn by cavalry, but generally by infantry and archers. Overall … it was a steel cap that looked a lot like the morian. 1844 JAMES Agincourt II. v. 109 He had his archers put on breastplates and salads. 1888 STEVENSON Black Arrow 4 Armed with sword and spear, a steel bag on his head and a leather cat on his body.

B. jokingly referred to as a measure for wine.

1600 HEYWOOD 1st Pt. Edw. IV (1613) Cj, Make a proclamation … Let … Sacke be sold by the Sallet.

vs. transf. Headdress, head. I do not use.

1652 CB STAPYLTON Herodian 56 When he came he came in his Sallat drunk.

2. A kind of iron vessel. Obs.

1472-3 Rolls of Parlt. SAW. 51/2 With fire brought with them in a Salette thider. 1507-8 Acc. Ld. High treasure. Scottish. IV. 101 item, for ane sellat to make vijs powdir gwn. 1582 J. HESTER Secr. Phiorav. III. cxvi. 141 Place the same pot on an iron pan and lute them together.

Hence saletted a., Wearing a sallet.

1455 Coventry Leet Bk. (EETS) 282 One hundred goode men … with bows and arowes, Jakked & saletted. 1461 J. PASTON in P. Lett. II. 36 The people were jakkyd and were satisfied, and overflowed.


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

A kind of helmet introduced in the middle of the 15th century, instead of the basinet. It consisted of a globular iron cap, which extended with a large hollowed-out projection over the back of the neck and was protected at the front by the visor, beaver, and ruff. (Boutell.)

1507 Just May and June 87 in Hazl. EPP II. 124 They spared neither cors nor armyt nor vambrace. 1577 HOLINSHED Chron. III. 853/1 Four headdresses called armitas. 1795 SOUTHEY Joan of Arc Wks. IX. It struck his neck, his unfenced neck, because he had hastily awakened and put an arm on.


Obs. Exc. Hist.

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

For. A very light helmet, or steel cap, for use by the infantry, especially pikemen. B. A helmet with a visor, so tight to the ruff or neck, 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 the page of a lackey and I brought him his pike and his burganet. 1570-87 HOLINSHED Scot. Chron. (1806) II. 255 His burguenet hit him on the head. 1592 GREENE Upst. Run. Weeks. (Grosart) XI. 235 With Burgants to withstand a hit from a Battleaxe. 1611 SPEED Hist. Gt. Brit. VIII. v. (1632) 407 Everyone wore Burgenets of guilt on their heads. 1796 SOUTHEY Joan VII. 296 A massive burgonet … caking his head. 1825 JH WIFFEN Tasso VII. xc, the gleaming burganet that covers her eyebrows. 1834 JR PLANCHÉ Brit. Suit 280 A morion and a bourginot from the same period. 1852 D. MOIR Tomb of Bruce V, In the hallway hung the white and the burgonet rusting.

FIG. 1606 SHAKES. Ant. And Cl. I. v. 24 [Antony] The Atlas Demy of this Earth, the Arme And Burganet of men.


Armor. Now hist.


Obs. rare.

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

A kind of small helmet.

1622 PEACH Compl. Gentl. III. (1634) 150 Keys, padlocks, 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, symbolic or ornamental clothing; esp. the hanging scarf that is used in the headdresses of the ladies and that is also placed in the helmets of the jousting of the knights, as a “favor”. See QUAINTISE.

1834 JR PLANCHÉ Brit. Costume 93 The latter is called quintis or cointise, the name given to a dress or tunic peculiar to that time. Ibid. 94 The scarf that was later worn around the crest of the helmet was called a cointise. 1843 JAMES Forest Days (1847) 181 The beautiful scarves, called cointises, were recently introduced.