sur·​plice | \ ˈsər-pləs How to pronounce surplice (audio) \

Definition of surplice

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a loose white outer ecclesiastical vestment usually of knee length with large open sleeves



Definition of surplice (Entry 2 of 2)

: having a diagonally overlapping neckline or closing a surplice collar surplice sweaters

Examples of surplice in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Why does the judge don his robe, the priest his surplice, the scholar his gown, the barrister his wig, the queen her crown? Michael Knox Beran, National Review, "Can Today’s Soulless Institutions Be Revived?," 6 Feb. 2020 Camarón, in his day, had a similarly surplice-shredding effect. James Parker, The Atlantic, "How Flamenco Went Pop," 21 Dec. 2019 At the sound of a tap, dozens of young men clad in black cassocks and white surplices rise from kneeling positions to watch two of their brother priests begin a chant. Julia Shumway, The Seattle Times, "Young Nebraska priests’ chants become best-selling album," 24 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'surplice.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of surplice


13th century, in the meaning defined above


circa 1897, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for surplice


Middle English surplis, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin superpellicium, from super- + pellicium coat of skins, from Latin, neuter of pellicius made of skins, from pellis skin — more at fell

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about surplice

Time Traveler for surplice

Time Traveler

The first known use of surplice was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for surplice

Cite this Entry

“Surplice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for surplice



English Language Learners Definition of surplice

: a loose, white piece of clothing that is worn by priests or singers at church services

More from Merriam-Webster on surplice Encyclopedia article about surplice

Comments on surplice

What made you want to look up surplice? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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