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Q From Chris Clifford, and also from Terry Yawn: Can you tell me the origin of the word mufti?

A This term for the off-duty civilian clothes of the military man, or these days anybody who usually wears some sort of uniform, was originally a joke among officers in the British Indian Army, and is first recorded early in the nineteenth century. It’s usually said to come from Mufti, the title of a Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious law. The story is told in Yule and Burnell’s Hobson-Jobson of 1886 that the word was “perhaps originally applied to the attire of dressing-gown, smoking-cap, and slippers, which was like the Oriental dress of the Mufti”. I assume that officers wore this garb while relaxing in the mess.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 27 Mar. 1999

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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.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-muf1.htm
Last modified: 27 March 1999.