chla·​mys ˈkla-məs How to pronounce chlamys (audio) ˈklā- How to pronounce chlamys (audio)
plural chlamyses or chlamydes ˈkla-mə-ˌdēz How to pronounce chlamys (audio)
: a short oblong mantle worn by young men of ancient Greece

Illustration of chlamys

Illustration of chlamys

Did you know?

If you had been a man of ancient Greece, you'd likely have worn a chlamys from time to time. This cloak was a short, oblong mantle, typically made of dark wool, and worn draped over the left shoulder and fastened with a fibula at the right shoulder, leaving the right arm uncovered. The chlamys was popular especially among soldiers and messengers. Modern encounters with the chlamys are most likely to occur at museums where a statue of the messenger god Hermes or the Greco-Roman god Apollo might be seen garbed in such. As deities frequently on the move, these two would have appreciated the fact that the garment provided both protection from the elements and freedom of movement.

Word History


borrowed from Latin, borrowed from Greek chlamyd- chlamýs, of obscure origin

Note: Ancient Greek chlamýs is one of a small family of words for items of clothing (including chlaîna "loose upper garment," chlanid-, chlanís "light upper garment") that are phonetically similar without having clear derivational interrelations. Speculation on base forms is summarized in Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque (Paris, 1968, 1984), s.v. chlamýs. The alternation between -a- and -ai- is a mark of vocabulary borrowed from pre-Indo-European substratum, per Edzard Furnée, Die wichtigsten konsonantischen Erscheinungen des Vorgriechischen (Mouton, 1972), pp. 338-39.

First Known Use

1699, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of chlamys was in 1699


Dictionary Entries Near chlamys

Cite this Entry

“Chlamys.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on chlamys

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!