• fedora •
Pronunciation: fê-dor-ê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A men's felt or velvet hat with a wrap-around brim, usually creased either lengthwise or around the edge.
Notes: Men seldom wear hats anymore and, when they do, in the US they wear baseball caps, positioned forward or backward on their heads. However, if you watch movies from the 20s, 30s, and 40s you have seen thousands of fedoras. Occasionally, a fedora bobs up even today, but they were the only kind of hat men wore back then.
In Play: If a man wore a fedora back in the 40s, he would not stand out. Today is a different story: "Harley Davidson wanted to be noticed at the party, so he donned his father's old fedora before leaving." All the old fictional detectives wore fedoras: Sam Spade, Dick Tracy, Philip Marlowe—all wore fedoras.
Word History: Today's Good Word came from "Fédora", a popular play by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) that opened in 1882. The heroine, a Russian princess named Fédora Romanoff, was played by Sarah Bernhardt, a very popular actress at the time. In this role, Bernhardt wore a center-creased, soft-brimmed hat. Women's-rights activists quickly adopted the fashion, then passed it on to men. The word itself is the Russian feminine correlate of Fëdor, as in Fëdor Dostoevsky. It is the Russian variant of Greek Theodoros, which English borrowed as Theodore. In Greek the word means "gift of god", from theos "god" + doron "gift". (Today's Good Word is a gift of Jackie Strauss, who tells me her husband wears a fedora even today.)