The Crimean War bequeathed a slew of linguistic contributions to the English language - including the balaclava being named after the Battle of Balaclava and the phrase thin red line coming from the reports of a Scottish regiment during the war - but today we're going to focus on the cardigan, a kind of sweater that became fashionable during the war. This originally referred specifically to a knitted sleeveless vest, named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who was known for wearing a garment like that when he led the Charge of the Light Brigade. As the story of the event was retold back home in the United Kingdom, that detail caused the clothing item to rise in popularity and the word to be enshrined in the English language. Over time, the term also expanded from being a "sleeveless vest" to knitted sweaters in general, and then it became more associated with long sleeves and women's fashion due to the work of Coco Chanel in the 1940s and 50s, which is how we ended up where we are today. Finally, going backwards in time, the Cardigan General Brudenell governed was a county seat in Wales that was an Anglicization of the Welsh word Ceredigion, meaning "Ceredig's land," which referred to Ceredig ap Cunedda, a king of Wales in the 400s CE.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.