• chapeau •
shæ-po • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A hat.
Notes: Since the spelling and pronunciation of this word remain French even today, it has not picked up any English derivations. We have our choice of plurals. If you like French words, please use the French plural chapeaux. If you think French a bit pretentious, use the English chapeaus. Both may be pronounced the same.
In Play: Today's Good Word is a pretentious substitute for hat in serious situations but a playful one if the mood is light-hearted: "Whatever you do, do not utter a critical word about Maude's Parisian 'chapeau'; she is very sensitive about it." Chapeaus are not ordinary hats; they are rather special: "Well, you wouldn't want to call the sumptuous creation on Maude's head a hat; it was more of a chapeau!"
Word History: Today's Good Word is the French word for "hat". This word was capel and then chapel in Old French. It came from Late Latin cappellum "hood, hat", the diminutive of cappa "hooded cloak". This word was borrowed and went on to become both cap and cape in English. In its usual borrowing frenzy, English borrowed it yet again after French re-formed it into chapeau. (The US government can't hold a candle to the English language when it comes to borrowing.) Still wondering about chapel? Yes, the sense of "cape" was stretched to "canopy" somewhere between Late Latin and Old French. From there its meaning meandered on to "modest place of worship" and thence to "chapel". This may set the record for number of modern English words derived from one Latin word. (Our thanks and a tip of Dr. Goodword's old chapeau go to Janie Ramey today for suggesting such a fetching Good Word as this.)