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wardrobe

Printable Version
Pronunciation: wawr-drob Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A large piece of furniture where clothes are kept. 2. The room or building where theatrical costumes are kept. 3. The entire collection of clothes belonging to one person.

Notes: This word originally referred to a large piece of furniture that held all our clothes. Today it may also refer to the contents of a wardrobe (definition No. 3). A more archaic word for a storage space for clothes is the French word garderobe, should you ever find yourself in an archaic conversation.

In Play: A modern wardrobeToday, this word most widely refers to the entire collection of outfits worn by a person: "Maude Lynn Dresser has a wardrobe out of the 60s, for which she pays a high social price." Wardrobes often change seasonally: "When asked why she works at a company that demands that she change her entire wardrobe on the first day of each season, Natalie Cladd replied, 'For $250,000 per year'."

Word History: This word came from Norman French with the original meaning "room where wearing apparel is kept" or "a private chamber", consisting of warder "to keep, guard" + robe "garment". When standard French borrowed the English word ward, since at that time it had no [w] sound, it was replaced by the nearest French sound, [gw], spelled GU. English later borrowed this word back from French as guard. Finally, the U was dropped in French, hence the duplicate garderobe.

Robe comes from a borrowed word in French, too, roube "booty, spoils of war", especially, in Norman French, stolen clothing. French borrowed this word from Old Germanic Rauba "booty", which produced German rauben "rob" and English rob. English then borrowed back this word, too, assigning it the meaning of robe. However, the verb disrobe retains the French meaning of "clothing". (We now thank Joakim Larsson of Sweden for today's remarkable Good Word containing two double borrowings.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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