• gaiter •
gay-dêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A protective legging, an item of apparel worn between the ankle and knee, a knee-high spat or spatterdash.
Notes: Gaiters are not things of the past, though they have taken refuge in specialized vocabularies. They are preferred by most horseback riders to chaps. Mountain climbers often use them to prevent damage to the shin when climbing. A neck gaiter is an article of clothing that encircles the neck for warmth. Today's Good Word comes with two adjectives: gaitered "wearing gaiters" and gaiterless "not wearing them".
In Play: Generally, the word refers to an article of clothing that covers the area from the ankle to the knee: "You'd better wear watertight gaiters if you are going down in the basement." Today's word has expanded its coverage to other regions of the body: "Minnie Apples wore a neck gaiter to hide her dewlap."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from French guêtre of the same meaning. We also find Walloon guett and Provençal gueto. Now, Germanic W became GU in Romance language borrowings: ward became guard in Old French, and an ancestor of warranty became guarant(e). This gave English the opportunity to borrow back both as different words, which it seized upon. So, gaiter is probably related to wrist, which showed up in Old Norse as rist and Modern German Rist both meaning "instep". Another historical relative is English wriggle. (We thank Doug Schulek-Miller for suggesting today's Good Word and wish him not to get caught out in the snow without his gaiters.)
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