ˈā-prən How to pronounce apron (audio)
often attributive
: a garment usually of cloth, plastic, or leather usually tied around the waist and used to protect clothing or adorn a costume
: something that suggests or resembles an apron in shape, position, or use: such as
: the lower member under the sill of the interior casing of a window
: an upward or downward vertical extension of a bathroom fixture (such as a sink or tub)
: an endless belt for carrying material
: an extensive fan-shaped deposit of detritus
: the part of the stage in front of the proscenium arch
: the area along the waterfront edge of a pier or wharf
: a shield (as of concrete or gravel) to protect against erosion (as of a waterway) by water
: the extensive paved part of an airport immediately adjacent to the terminal area or hangars
ˈā-prənd How to pronounce apron (audio)

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In medieval French, a diminutive form of nape, meaning “tablecloth,” was naperon, which referred to a small cloth that is placed over a more elegant tablecloth to protect it from stains. This word appears in English of the 14th century as napron and also denoted a protective cloth, but one that was placed over clothing rather than on a table. Because in speech it is often difficult to tell where word boundaries fall, a napron was incorrectly understood to be an apron. The new form apron effectively replaced napron by the 17th century, which completely obscured the etymological relation of apron to napkin, the name of another protective cloth.

Examples of apron in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web From washable rugs and chic aprons to hanging planters and packing cubes, all of the products from these companies were crafted with a focus on quality, style, and sustainability. Jenna Anderson, Sunset Magazine, 8 Mar. 2024 Four vignettes showed off spreads of feather dusters and dishes, hourglasses and aprons, bedspreads and blankets, wine ware and ornate door knobs (read: zebra heads). Katie Toussaint, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 Not for a team that sprinted through the NBA’s second tax apron to construct this roster. Shane Young, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 Meanwhile, the summer Olympics are getting closer Eau de Paris contributed the equivalent of more than $100,000 to cover the cost of the trays, aprons, coffee and croissants, according to the Guardian. Rachel Treisman, NPR, 25 Mar. 2024 But the Warriors would still be roughly $30 million over the tax line (into the second apron) with Thompson at roughly $20 million a season. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, 12 Mar. 2024 So with its current payroll, the Heat would likely lack the ability to re-sign Martin and avoid the second apron if Martin commands a contract in the $10 million per year range. Anthony Chiang, Miami Herald, 8 Feb. 2024 But her favorite pieces are new for DVF: nylon travel bags, a colorful apron, and toddler-friendly clothes. Jake Henry Smith, Glamour, 13 Mar. 2024 Queen Charlotte’s only known surviving dress, on loan from the Fashion Museum in Bath, is a centerpiece, along with an item that’s never been displayed before: a linen apron worn by Queen Charlotte’s dresser, Ann Elizabeth Thielcke. Simon Perry, Peoplemag, 12 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apron.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English apron, aperon, alteration (by misdivision of a napron as an apron) of naproun, naperon, napron, borrowed from Anglo-French naperoun "napkin for drying one's hands," earlier Latinized as napero, naperona "cloth to cover a table or other surface, towel, apron," from nape "tablecloth" (going back to Vulgar Latin *nappa, by dissimilation from Latin mappa "piece of cloth used as a towel or napkin") + -eron, diminutive suffix — more at map entry 1, aileron

Note: Although modern French retains the word napperon in the sense "protective piece of cloth, as a table mat, placed on a piece of furniture," the diversification in sense that led to "apron" in English appears to have taken place only in Anglo-French. The Middle English Dictionary records naproun, naperon, etc., only in the sense "apron," according to the judgment of the editors, but nearly all the citations are from payment records or inventories that appear to reveal little about the meaning of the word. The Anglo-Norman Dictionary has a single citation for naperoun, from a courtesy manual of ca. 1430, where it means something like "napkin": "Sur le naperoun voz mains suetz, Ne frotez voz gencies" ("Wipe your hands on the naperoun, don't rub your gums"). Continental evidence for the word apparently does not extend before the fourteenth century. The Anglo-French word is demonstrably earlier, however. The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources first records naperon in the English Close Rolls as something for which cloth was required in 1215. An entry for 1274 in the household book of Henry, son of Edward I, registers payment for canvas cloth purchased "for covering garments of the same and for naperones in the kitchen" ("pro x ulnis canubie emptis ad cooperiendas robas eorundem et ad naperones in coquina"). Here the word naperones clearly points to a kind of apron. This use is confirmed by a passage from the Exchequer's accounts for 1313: "for canvas purchased for napron' made to preserve the falconers' clothes while they feed the falcons" ("pro canabo empto pro napron' faciend' pro salvacione pannorum falconariorum in pascendo falcones").

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of apron was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near apron

Cite this Entry

“Apron.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apron. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ˈā-prən How to pronounce apron (audio)
: a garment worn on the front of the body to keep the clothing from getting dirty
: something that suggests or resembles an apron in shape, position, or use: as
: the part of the stage in front of the curtain
: the paved part of an airport next to the terminal area or hangars

from Middle English napron "protective garment" (a napron was mistaken for an apron), derived from early French nape "cloth," from Latin mappa "napkin" — related to map, napkin

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