Today I’ve been casting about for interesting but useful English words that are out of the common way in terms of etymological origins (i.e., words that aren’t Germanic, Latinate, French, or Greek). Somewhere along the line, I stumbled across some mention of cravats, and given my affection for Regency neckware, I couldn’t resist investigating further.
If I had ever stopped to think about the origin of cravat, I almost certainly would have supposed a French origin—as I’ve only ever encountered cravats in novels about English noblemen who frequently toss about words like de trop, demimondaine, and dernier cri, it was a somewhat logical conclusion.
So I was surprised to discover not only that the word was of Croatian origin, but that it was in fact derived from the very word that means Croat. According to the Academia Cravatica (one of the more peculiar non-profits I’ve ever come across), the cravat was popularized by Louis XIV, who was presumably inspired by the neck scarves worn by Croatian soldiers who fought for France. And the fashion, naturally, took the name of its progenitors.
After reading this I spent a good five minutes saying cravat in a bad Bond-villain accent, wondering why I’d never noticed the connection before.
For those of you who are interested, here’s the etymology of cravat as per the OED:
Etymology: < French cravate (1652 in Hatzfeld & Darmesteter), an application of the national name Cravate Croat, Croatian, < German Krabate (Flemish Krawaat , < Serbian and Croatian Khrvat , Hrvat , Old Church Slavonic Khrŭvat , of which Croat is another modification: compare the following
And in case you’re wondering what the Academia Cravatica does, let me direct you to their homepage:
Academia Cravatica is a non-profit institution founded on 26th March 1997 and it studies, preserves and improves the cravat as a part of Croatian and world heritage.Academia Cravatica builds from an authentic historical fact that the cravat emerged as an expression of the genius of the Croatian people and that this fashion ornament is a medium able to transmit many discreet messages to the world.