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Best bib and tucker

Q From Faith Gildenhuys: What’s the history of best bib and tucker?

A A tucker was a bit of lace worn around the neck and top of the bodice by 17th-18th century women, presumably something that was tucked in; the bib was closely related to our modern term — a shirt-front or covering for the breast. The expression is first recorded from the middle of the eighteenth century, initially only for women and girls, as you might expect, but later on also to men, when the words had become a fixed phrase and disengaged from their real meanings. Before then, the common expression seems to have been best bib and band (band meaning collar), also commonly used for men as well as women, which continued after the new term had come into use, though it seems to have died out at the end of the eighteenth century. The word derives from the same source as the tucker of food, but is unconnected in meaning.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 Dec. 1998

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 19 December 1998.