Word Wednesday: Abacot

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Devil's Dictionary Image
Screen Capture
Ambrose Bierce
The Devil’s Dictionary

Generations of reference books once included this term, including the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, dated 1771 […]

James Murray, the famous editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, found that the original word was bycoket, which was indeed a form of headgear, a cap or headdress with a peak both in front and behind, whose name he thought derived from an Old French term for a small castle crowning a hill. He declared abacot to be a ghost word and wrote in an article in [T]he Athenaeum in February 1882:

“There is not, never was, such a word.”

His entry for abacot in the first edition of the OED read in its entirity [sic] “a spurious word found in many dictionaries, originating in a misprint of bycoket.” In the bycoket entry, he told the story:

Through a remarkable series of blunders and ignorant reproductions of error, this word appears in modern dictionaries as abacot. In Hall’s Chronicles a bicocket appears to have been misprinted abococket, which was copied by Grafton, altered by Holinshed to abococke, and finally “improved” by Abraham Fleming to abacot (perhaps through an intermediate abacoc) […]

One may instead argue that since the word has — albeit rarely — been used, then it exists and ought to be treated as such. There is, after all, no shortage of words that have been grossly altered through popular error. The revision of its entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in December 2011 takes this view […]

Michael Quinion
Weird Words (Abacot)
World Wide Words
April 15, 2006 (Updated: June 23, 2012)

You want to know what an abacot/bycoket is? Think Robin Hood. ~Vic

12 thoughts on “Word Wednesday: Abacot

    David Redpath said:
    September 1, 2021 at 6:51 PM

    I wonder if old Davy Crockett
    wore a raccoon skin bycocket 🤔


    David Redpath said:
    September 1, 2021 at 7:28 PM

    If you believe the fables
    Robin Hood was a noble
    and likely wore a bycocket
    if, and when, he was able 😎


    bereavedandbeingasingleparent said:
    September 1, 2021 at 9:03 PM

    A ghost word. What a description.


    charliecountryboy said:
    September 2, 2021 at 2:32 AM

    Aha, now once I had seen the image of Robin Hood it was much easier to visualise this abacot. It must have been popular during the Elizabethan era, I’m sure Black Adder (Rowan Atkinson) wore one in the second series 🤔 I’m sure you’d still spot an abacot or two at Royal Ascot on Ladies Day😉 Interesting 😀


      The Hinoeuma responded:
      September 3, 2021 at 2:57 AM

      What is Ladies Day?

      Liked by 1 person

        charliecountryboy said:
        September 3, 2021 at 10:58 AM

        Most racecourses, but especially the larger meetings such as Royal Ascot, Gold Cup day, have a Ladies Day. Where all the ladies dress up in their finest attire. Some poet from the 1800s coined the phrase when he said the ladies looked like Angels. But they always do, don’t they? 😉


          The Hinoeuma responded:
          September 3, 2021 at 9:37 PM

          Sounds interesting. I doubt I have anything that would rival the attire of rich Brits.

          Liked by 1 person

            charliecountryboy said:
            September 4, 2021 at 2:21 AM

            Ach, you’d be fine lassy, it’s not just for the rich (well it is in the royal enclosure) The rest of us just put our best frock on. Obviously in my case it’s a suit 😂


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