What’s the Difference Between a Jacket and a Coat?

When writing about Melania Trump in yesterday’s post, I realised that I’d written a few times in the initial paragraphs that she’d been wearing a controversial coat.

No, that can’t be right, I thought.

You see, it’s June, so surely she was wearing a jacket.

I checked the pictures, and even though the garment in question is somewhere between a coat and a jacket, it’s definitely fair to call it a jacket.

Like most people, I have a fairly solid sense of the difference between a coat and a jacket. But of course I started to wonder: are there strict definitions of what a coat and a jacket are? Are there any interesting stories behind the two words?

No, not at all.

They mean exactly what you imagine they mean. A coat is looser, longer, and usually warmer and worn in autumn and winter. A jacket is closer-fitting, shorter, and usually lighter and worn in spring and summer. Coat probably comes from the Frankish kotta, meaning coarse cloth. Jacket can probably be traced back to the Arabic shakk, meaning breastplate.

There is of course no authority on what strictly defines a coat or a jacket. If someone was wearing a light, longish outer garment, for example, you could could call it either a jacket or a coat, and no-one would really care. Just like they might not really care about migrant children locked in cages.

Sorry, got political again there for a second.

But yes, a coat is just something that’s like a coat, and a jacket’s something that’s like a jacket, and because the two are so similar, you can occasionally use the two words interchangeably. Hopefully though, it’s as warm and sunny for you as it here, and you don’t need to worry about coats and jackets!

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