Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
June 18th, 2015
Episode 230 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 18, 2015 is: caparison \kuh-PAIR-uh-sun\ noun 1 a : an ornamental covering for a horse b : decorative trappings and harness 2 : rich clothing : adornment Examples: A group of horses outfitted in medieval caparison were standing near the area where the festival's jousting would begin. "The female mummy was called the princess because of the richness of her burial trove. Six horses were entombed with her; some of the tasseled caparisons they carried were still in almost perfect condition after more than 2,000 years." St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch, February 15, 1998 Did you know? Caparison first embellished English in the 1500s, when we borrowed it from the Middle French caparaçon. Early caparisons were likely used to display the heraldic colors of a horseman, and in some cases may also have functioned as protective covering for the horse. In British India, it was elephants, not horses, that were decked out with caparisonsand to this day both animals can still be seen in such attire during parades and circuses. It did not take long for caparison to come to refer to the ornate clothing worn by a man or woman. Caparison also serves English as a verb, a use first recorded in Shakespeare when Richard III commanded, "Come, bustle, bustle; caparison my horse."