While traveling in the Balkans, I learned a fascinating new etymology this week. The word cravat, which today describes a kind of cloth worn around the neck like a tie, was first used in English by lexicographer Thomas Blount in 1656. Initially, there were a lot of different spellings, such as crabbat, crabat, crevatt, and crevat, but by the eighteenth century the word was relatively standardized with its current orthography. This was taken from French cravate, which meant "Croatian" because Catholic French soldiers who fought alongside Croats in the Thirty Years' War noticed that their Slavic comrades had a particular fondness for donning linen scarves much like people wear cravats today. Through German, cravat traces to the demonym Croatians give themselves, Hrvat, an appellation that likely traces to an Old Church Slavonic term for "highlander".
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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.