ep·​au·​let ˌe-pə-ˈlet How to pronounce epaulet (audio)
variants or less commonly epaulette
: something that ornaments or protects the shoulder: such as
: an ornamental fringed shoulder pad formerly worn as part of a military uniform
: an ornamental strip or loop sewn across the shoulder of a dress or coat
ˌe-pə-ˈle-təd How to pronounce epaulet (audio)

Illustration of epaulet

Illustration of epaulet
  • E epaulet

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Epaulet Has French and Latin Roots

The epaulet gets its name from what it covers - the shoulder. It comes from the French word épaulette, the diminutive of "épaule," meaning shoulder. (Another accepted spelling of the English word - "epaulette" - mirrors the French.) "Épaule" itself, though, comes from the Latin word spatha, meaning "spoon" or "sword." This Latin word (which traces back to Greek spathē, meaning "blade of a sword" or "oar") is also the root of the word spade - as in the playing card suit. (The digging implement "spade" is also a relative though the connection is less direct.)

Examples of epaulet in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web To this day, many contemporary models feature epaulets that would have originally been used to suspend gloves and whistles, and D-rings that could have held grenades. Justin Fenner, Robb Report, 3 Apr. 2024 The retro-looking snap posted on Monday night (Feb. 5) has Stefani lounging on a 1970s stripey couch in a denim jumpsuit, chunky-heeled shoes and a bra, while Shelton sits on a chair in jeans and a denim shirt with leather epaulets while strumming a guitar. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 6 Feb. 2024 At Brown’s request, the uniforms were gray with red epaulets. Catherine Baty, Baltimore Sun, 7 July 2023 Neely asked Harper, a fellow tribute artist, for dance tips, and honed his craft over the next few years, eventually buying a jacket with epaulets and mastering the full look. Curbed, 4 May 2023 The president’s granddaughter, Naomi Biden Neal, opted for a strappy sequined silver dress, her hair loosely tousled; her aunt, Ashley Biden, wore a petal-pink cape with beaded epaulets. Zoe Glasser, Washington Post, 23 June 2023 Williams likes to pose for photographs and make public addresses wearing his bright green sultan’s uniform, complete with faux military awards, golden epaulets and tinted sunglasses. Richard Collett, CNN, 8 June 2023 However, some important parts of the collection — including a significant diamond, an elaborate brooch and an epaulet — are still missing and others are damaged or oxidized. Christopher F. Schuetze, New York Times, 16 May 2023 Jacket Taking its foundational shape from a classic military M-65 field jacket—marked by its below-the-waist length, epaulets and lots of pockets—Aspesi’s update features a midnight-blue shell material that’s lightly padded for a little extra warmth. Isaiah Freeman-Schub, Robb Report, 8 Mar. 2023

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

Word History


French épaulette, diminutive of épaule shoulder, from Old French espalle, from Late Latin spatula shoulder blade, spoon, diminutive of Latin spatha spoon, sword — more at spade

First Known Use

1778, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of epaulet was in 1778


Dictionary Entries Near epaulet

Cite this Entry

“Epaulet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epaulet. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


variants also epaulette
ˌep-ə-ˈlet How to pronounce epaulet (audio)
: a shoulder ornament on a uniform especially of a military or naval officer

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