A Little Fun With Old Fashioned Headgear Terms – Part 1 Ancient Greece Through Medieval European Helmets

Some obscure and unusual words come to light when looking back at the history of helmets. Having recently finished reading THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins 1998) on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, I thought it would be fun to explore the definitions and etymology of some of these old 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 appear with a wavy red line in Microsoft Word’s “spell check” tool. So here it goes:


Shapes: 15-petal, 18-petal.


[L. tutulus.]

A Roman headdress formed by braiding the hair into a cone above the forehead, worn especially. by the Flamen and his wife.

1753 CAMERAS Cycl. Supp., Tutulus, among the Romans, a way of combing one’s hair, gathering it over the forehead in the form of a tower… Tutulus also meant a woolen cap with a high crown. 1816 J. DALLAWAY Statues and sculptures. saw. 321 The headdress is that of the wife of a pontifex, ..the tutulus or upper part of the hair is wound with a cord around the crown of the head. 1891 FARRAR Darkness. & Dawn xxvi, Domitia Lepida, whose tutulus, or conical headdress, was the sole 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 formerly worn by women, folded so as to envelop the head, chin, sides of the face, and neck: now retained in the nuns’ dress. also gene. clock.

Loosely used in early glossaries as a representation of L. anabola, cyclas, peplum, ricinum.
a1100 Aldhelm Brilliance. I. 4296 (Napier 112) Cyclades, .i. west, touch a1100 Brightness. in Wr.-Wülcker 107/37 Ricinum, winpel uel orl. Ibid. 125/8 Anabola, winpel. c1200 Trin. Col. Hom. 163 Hire winpel without eleu mid saffran. c1240 Anchor. R. 420 (MS. C), Sum sei æt hit limpe to ene wummon cundeliche forte were wimpel. c1250 Med. Maregrete xlvii, oru e mitte de ih christ, wid her wempel ho hin bond. 1297 R. GLOUC. (Rolls) 6941 Hire bodi wi a tablecloth, a wimpel [v.r. whympel] bute rent heued. c1374 CHAUCER Troilus II. 110 Do a-woy oure wimpil & schew oure face bare. c1386 prol. 151 Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was. 14.. Voice in Wr.-Wülcker 601/43 Peplum, a wynpul. c1425 WYNTOUN Chron. IX. xxiv. 2992 Hyre hayre in wompyll arayande. c1440 Gesta Rom. lxix. 317 Empress hydde hired her face with a wympill pill, because she didn’t know anything. 1513 DOUGLAS Aeneis I. vii. 115 To ask flexible, with thaim ane womple bair thai, with handis betand ther breistis by the way. c1530 Cr. Amor 1102 And eke the nuns, with veil and headdress. 1560 Bible (Geneva) Isa. iii. 22 The fancy dresses and the veils, and the wimpels, and the crispy pins. 1805 SCOTT Last Minstr. V. xvii, White was her whip and her veil. 1819 Ivanhoe xlii, His Flowing Toque of Black Cypress. 1879 WALFORD Londoniana II. 247 Three nuns with veils and whips.
transfer 1615 CROOKE BODY OF MAN 123 Substrate a certain veyle or touch soft and slippery. 1861 A. AUSTIN at Temple Bar III. 472 Tombs are the headdresses that protect Against the rain of Life.

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

II. 3. A crease or wrinkle; a turn, winding or twist; a ripple or ripple in a stream.
1513 DOUGLAS Janus II. IV. 30 Bot thai on him lowpit at wympillis [orig. spiris] shot. 1593 NASHE T. de Cristo 74b, Be no more curious of a dresser or a stain on your garment, than you are of staining yourself and keeping your deer bought Spyrit.
Bodsbeck’s 1818 HOGG Brownie xii. I. 225 A pastor… hates the tolls, as he calls them, of a turnpike. Ibid. xiv. II. 22 he had as many links and taps on his tail as an eel. 1845 ELIZA COOK Waters i, Waters, bright Waters,..your wimple has just lulled the little fish to sleep! 1878 STEVENSON Will o’ Mill, Parson’s Marj. The river ran between the steps with a pretty headdress.

4. A cunning twist or turn; a South Carolina ruse.
1638 SIR A. JOHNSTON Diary (SHS) 320 Notwithstanding all wyles, wimples, offers, motions, and uther letts. 1755 R. FORBES Ajax’s Sp. 24 The golden helmet will look, A flicker with Skyrin Brinns, That in their headdresses they will discover Fan i’ the mark that shines. 1818 SCOTT Hour. half xxiv, Yes there is a touch in the fist of a lawyer.

Therefore, without touching a., without touching.
a1225 Anchor. R. 420 si e muwen beon wimpel-leas, beo bi ware 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; a neck piece. Obs.

a1330 Roland & V. 863 Su ventail gan vn-lace & smot de su heued en e place. 13..Guy Warw. (A.) 92 the helmet of his was of so michel mit, he was never beaten by any fit man in hadde it in the sale of him. a1400 Sir Perc. 1722 He was even beaten by the nekk-bane, Thurgh Ventale and Pesane. c1400 Laud Troy Bk. 14375 the helmets of him were in his sperde windows. c1450 LOVELICH Grail XIV. 33 Helmes, hawberkes, and Ventaylles too, Alle to the Grownde he dyde hem go.

a1400 Sqr. lowe Degre 222 Your base will be burnished and bright, Your window will be well tinted, With gold stars it will be set.

2. The lower movable part of the front of a helmet, as distinguished from the visor; Lastly, the entire moving part including the visor.
c1400 Destr. Troy 7030 The Duke with a dynt derit hym agayn, on the visor and the ventaile voidet hym fro. c1400 Anturs of art. xxxii, Then he auaylet vppe his viserne from the window of him. c1470 Goal. and Gaw. 867 he braids it vp the window of him, That closit wes clene. a1533LD. BERNERS Huon cxxiv. 448 Beneath the window of his helmet, glasses of water fell from his eye. 1590 SPENSER FQIII. ii. 24 Through whose bright window..His face of him manly of him ..lookt foorth. 1600 FAIRFAX Tasso VI. xxvi, He venll vp so high, that he describes the handsome face of him, and the beauty proud of him. 1802 JAMES Milit. Dict., Ventail, that part of a hoof which is made for lifting. 1865 SIR JK JAMES Tasso XX. xii, Thro’ the latticed ventayle his reddened 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 Sometimes with a ‘ventaille’ or movable visor.

b. One of the vents or air holes of this. Obs. 1
1470-85 MALORY Arthur X. lx. 516 Blood spurts from the windows of his helmet.

3. Something acting like a sailor fanatic. Obs.
a1529 SKELTON Col. Asparagus 400 [The nuns] He must cast vp your blacke vayles, and set vp your fucke sayles, to catch wynde with his 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, with the lower part curved outwards behind.
c1440 ing. 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, to peyr brygandyrs, to salet, to boresper [etc.]. 1480 CAXTON Chron. Ing. cclv. (1482) 331 Toke syr vmfreys salad and his bergantyns… and also his gylt spores and arayd hym lyke a lord. c1537 Thersytes 55, I would like to have a girdle on my head, which under my chin with a fastened red strap will be. 1585 T. WASHINGTON tr. Nicholas’s journey. 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 had been broken with a brown beak. 1594 R. ASHLEY tr. Loys le Roy 113b, The heavily armed men had a salad, which covered their heads and reached their shoulders. a1600 Floddan F. ii. (1664) 12 Some of an action can soon do A sallate to save their pâté. 1786 GROSS Antique. Armor 11 The Salad, Salet, or Celate. Father Daniel defines a Salet as a kind of light helmet, without a shield, sometimes with a visor and other times without it. 1824 MEYRICK Ant. Armor III. Gloss., Salett, ..a light headpiece sometimes worn by cavalry, but usually by infantry and archers. It was usually a steel cap that looked a lot like morian. 1844 JAMES Agincourt II. v. 109 he made his archers put on breastplates and salads. 1888 STEVENSON Black Arrow 4 Armed with sword and spear, a steel salet on his head, a leather jack on his body.

b. jokingly 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.

against transfer Headdress, head. nonce-use.
1652 CB STAPYLTON Herodian 56 When Wine got into her Sallat drunk.

2. Some kind of iron pot. Obs.
1472-3 Rolls of Parliament. SAW. 51/2 With fyere brought with them in a place of Salette. 1507-8 According to Hello High Treasures. Scott IV. Article 101, for a sellat to make gwn powdir vijs. 1582 J. HESTER Sect. Phiorav. third cxvi. 141 Place the same pot on an Iron Sallette, and fight them together.

Therefore, saletted a., using a sallet.
1455 Coventry Leet Bk. (EETS) 282 One hundred goode-men..with bowes & arowes, Jakked & saletted. 1461 J. PASTON in P. Lett. II. 36 The people were jakkyd and saletted, and arranged in an uproar.


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

A kind of headgear introduced in the mid-15th century, instead of the bassinet. It consisted of a globular iron cap, which extended with a large hollow projection over the back of the neck, and was protected in front by the visor, beaver and ruff. (Mouth.)
1507 Righteous May and June 87 in Hazl. PPE II. 124 They did not spare cors, armyt, nor even vambrace. 1577 SAINT Cron. third 853/1 Four headdresses called arms. 1795 SOUTHEY Joan of Arc Wks. IX. 279 Hit on her neck, her neck unfenced, because he woke up in a hurry and had thrown a gun at her.


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

has. Very light helmet, or steel cap, for use by infantry, especially pikemen. b. A helmet with a visor, so fitted to the ruff or neck piece, that the head can 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 a footman’s page, carrying his pike and burganet behind him. 1570-87 SCOTUS SAINT. Chrono. (1806) II. 255 the burguenet of him hit on the head of him. 1592 GREEN Upst. Runs. weeks (Grosart) XI. 235 With Burgants to withstand the hit of a Battleaxe. 1611 SPEED Hist. GT.Brit. VII. v. (1632) 407 In his heads they all carried Burgenets guilt. 1796 SOUTH Joan VII. 296 A massive burgonet..the helm of the head of him. 1825 JH WIFFEN Tasso VII. xc, The glittering burganet that veils his forehead. 1834 JR British PLANCHE. Suit 280 A morion and burgundy from the same period. 1852 D. MOIR Tomb of Bruce v, In the hall hung white and rusty burgundy.
fig. 1606 SHAKES. Ant. & Cl. I. v. 24 [Antony] The half Atlas of this Earth, the Arme Y Burganet of men.


Armor. now hist.

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

A kind of small helmet.
1622 PEACAM compl. Gentle. third (1634) 150 Keys, padlocks, buckles, cabassets or morrians, helmets and the like. 1874 BOUTELL Arms and arms. 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; sp. the hanging scarf worn on ladies’ headdresses and also placed on knight’s jousting helmets, as a “favour”. See QUANTIZE.

1834 JR British PLANCHE. Costume 93 This latter is called a quintis or cointise, a name given to a dress or tunic peculiarly elaborate on that day. Ibid. 94 The scarf later worn around the crest of the helmet was called a cointise. 1843 JAMES Forest Days (1847) 181 Beautiful scarves, called coins, were recently introduced.

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