what is a diaper called in england

what is a diaper called in england

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Nappy versus Diaper Added on 19 August 2014 in Darlings Downunder, Common Data & Recommendation, Conventional Flat & Prefold Material Nappies

Have you ever ever questioned why Individuals say ‘diaper’ and we are saying ‘nappy’? Should you’re a little bit of a language nut like me, settle in for a historical past lesson. In any other case, be happy to go to extra attention-grabbing pages of our web site!

Following a dialogue in a world Nice Material Diaper Change organisers group, I began trying into the origin of the completely different phrases we use for what we placed on our infants’ bottoms, specifically ‘diaper’ versus ‘nappy’. Diaper is what they use in North America, and Nappy is the phrase used within the UK & Eire, Australia, NZ and lots of different Commonwealth nations. However why the distinction?

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The quick reply is that language developed individually in numerous areas – it explains all these distinction: pacifier v dummy, biscuit v cookie, jelly v jam, in addition to the entire spelling factor. However if you wish to know the place the phrases themselves got here from, learn on!

In English talking phrases, nappies weren’t truly known as both of those phrases generally till the nineteenth century. From the medieval interval onwards they have been normally known as ‘clouts’ (from fabric or patch) or ‘tailclouts.’


The etymology of ‘nappy’ is kind of boring. It is assumed to be quick for ‘serviette’ – a phrase nonetheless generally utilized by grannies and also you hear it used a bit in some Asian nations as properly. The usage of ‘nappy’ as we all know it solely dates from the early twentieth century. Serviette is of late Center English origin, and is from the Previous French nappe for tablecloth (which had its personal origin within the Latin mappa for sheet). Add the -kin on the top and you’ve got ‘little tablecloth’ or ‘little sheet’. It was one other phrase for towels, handkerchiefs and different small cloths – we nonetheless use it for desk napkins similar to they did again then. Add the toddler use and and it is easy to see how child discuss adjustments ‘serviette’ to ‘nappy’. A reasonably apparent identify on your customary sq. flats, and it is sensible.


Now ‘diaper’ is WAY extra attention-grabbing than ‘nappy’ and has a for much longer historical past, though it is related to America!

The phrase diaper involves English from Greek diaspros (from dia ‘throughout’ + aspros ‘white’) to medieval Latin diasprum, to Previous French diapre. There are references to diaper material going again to the medieval interval in France, when it meant a extremely fancy textile product of white silk, which was woven or flowered over with gold thread. By the fifteenth century, ‘diaper’ referred to a linen material woven with a small repeating diamond sample. It additionally turned a phrase to explain repeating ornamental patterns in artwork, stained glass home windows and structure. The family accounts of the Duke of Norfolk document in 1466 the acquisition of “Flemyshe stykes of fyne dyapere.”

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Within the 1500s, diaper material was being constituted of cotton in addition to linen and was getting used for tablecloths, towels and small cloths. From 1513: “The tables have been coated with garments of Dyaper Rychely enlarged with sylver and with golde.” & “Cowl thy cupborde and thyn ewery with the towell of dyaper.


It’s attainable that Shakespeare (yep, him!) was the primary to make use of the phrase ‘diaper’ to imply an merchandise product of diaper material – on this case it was a hand towel (or ‘serviette’ – see the hyperlink?). From The Taming of the Shrew (1596): “Let one attend him with a silver basin/Stuffed with rose-water and bestrew’d with flowers,/One other bear the ewer, the third a diaper,/And say ‘Will’t please your lordship cool your arms?‘”

And this is one other literary reference that hyperlinks each our phrases. From Pepys’ diary entry 12 November 1660: “From thence walked to my father’s, the place I discovered my spouse, who had been with my father to-day, shopping for of a tablecloth and a dozen of napkins of diaper.

And this is one other reference from 1840 famous by the Oxford English Dictionary: “A newurbanhabitat.com the very best white diaper fringed with pink.

By the nineteenth century, diaper material with its distinctive weave was extra commonplace and cheaper, and the time period ‘diapering’ was used to confer with weaving a small, repeating sample in fabric. And diaper-type materials have been getting used for infants.


After which a shift occurred.

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In North America, diaper weave-type materials continued for use for infants – with ‘birdseye cotton’ turning into the most typical material for child bottoms. Birdseye cotton is a woven cotton material with a particular diamond sample (sound acquainted???) and is what Individuals consider as quaint sq. diapers. At some point of the nineteenth century, American infants have been carrying ‘diapers’ and it’s nonetheless the time period used at the moment, although there are all kinds of materials now used.

Fashionable Birdseye Cotton Flats

Within the UK, nevertheless, they began producing cotton terry towelling material on an industrial scale within the mid nineteenth century and it turned the most well-liked material for infants’ napkins (together with muslin). Diaper material was nonetheless in use for tablecloths however not a lot for infants, and maybe that is why the British did not undertake the phrase ‘diaper’ in the best way the Individuals did.

And for us in Australia, we adopted the British utilization, however used flannelette nappies in addition to terry flats. Our mum, a midwife who got here from Scotland to Australia in 1970, remembers: “Once I arrived to work on the Royal Womens’ Hospital, I regarded everywhere on my first day on the postnatal ward for nappies, till an English woman pointed to a pile of flannelette squares and stated, “That is what passes right here for nappies.” … If you have been each born [in Tasmania in the 1970s], I had loads of hassle getting terry towelling nappies. The identical utilized to muslin – my mom despatched them as they have been onerous to get.”

It is all very attention-grabbing stuff, and I am listening to increasingly folks calling nappies ‘diapers’ as a result of American affect. I’m wondering what we’ll be calling nappies in a century?

Some References

newurbanhabitat.com newurbanhabitat.com/subject/linen-diaper-and-damask newurbanhabitat.com/index.php?time period=diaper newurbanhabitat.com/wiki/Christy_percent28towel_manufacturerpercent29 newurbanhabitat.com/wiki/Diaper newurbanhabitat.com/content material/journals/conservation-journal/issue-22/nappies-at-the-national-museum-of-childhood/

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