Cross-checkered repeating pattern (or sett) of bands, stripes, or lines of various colours and of definite width and sequence, woven into woolen cloth, sometimes with silk added. Such patterns have existed for centuries in many cultures but have come to be regarded as fundamentally Scottish and as a quasi-heraldic Scottish family or clan emblem. Though claims of great antiquity have been made for Scottish tartans, few seem to predate the 17th or even 18th century as clan emblems. The Scottish Tartans Society (founded 1963) maintains a register of all known tartans, numbering about 1,300.
Royal Stuart (Stewart) tartan.—The Scottish Tartans Society/Museum
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on tartan, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up tartan? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.