Origin of bandanna
OTHER WORDS FROM bandannaban·dan·naed [ban-dan-uhd], /bænˈdæn əd/, adjective
Words nearby bandanna
MORE ABOUT BANDANNA
What does bandanna mean?
A bandanna is a type of large handkerchief, usually patterned and brightly colored. While used for many purposes, bandannas are commonly worn on the head, to hold back hair or absorb sweat, or around the neck to protect it from the sun.
Today, bandannas are often printed with a distinctive paisley pattern, are square, are made from cotton, and come in a variety of colors. Historically, bandannas were patterned with white spots on a red or blue background. Such a bandanna—red with white spots—is featured in the “We Can Do It!” wartime poster from 1943 created by graphic designer J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Electric to help boost morale for its workers during World War II. In popular culture, the iconic, bicep-flexing woman wearing the bandanna in the poster has become Rosie the Riveter, though she is not technically that original character.
Another notable bandanna in U.S. history dates back to the very founding of the country itself. At the request of Martha Washington, the printmaker John Hewson, fashioned a red-and-white bandana featuring George Washington on horseback, his sword drawn and encircled by the words “George Washington, Esq. Foundator and Protector of America’s Liberty and Independency.”
Indeed, as the Washington bandanna shows, this textile has a long history not just of fashion and function but also to signal various groups, identities, and causes. Different colored bandannas were displayed as sexual code in the 1970s gay culture. Different colored bandanas have also been used to represent various gang affiliations.
Still, the bandanna remains a very practical item. During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, many people used bandannas as makeshift, non-medical face masks to help prevent and protect themselves from the virus, which can spread through droplets expelled by coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, and breathing.
Where does bandanna come from?
First recorded around 1745–55, the word bandanna comes from the Hindi bā̃dhnū, meaning “tie-dyeing.” Tie-dyeing is a process of dyeing fabrics by tying off parts of it, which prevents those parts from getting the dye and producing patterns as a result. And the practice of tie-dyeing is far older than any rainbow-colored, peace-and-loving attire of the 1960s.
Now, the Hindi bā̃dhnū is based on bāndhnā, “to tie,” derived from bandhati, a verb in the ancient language of Sanskrit meaning “he binds.” The word bind, here, is no coincidence. Bind is cognate to bandhati, as they are both derived from a common ancestor. That means bind and bandanna are related—if distantly.
An earlier form of bandanna was bandanno. Bandanna was probably first adopted in Portuguese and from there borrowed into English.
Bandannas may also bring to mind the Wild West, the textile worn by cowboys on the ranch—or hiding the face of bandits holding up the saloon. This connection may make you wonder: is the word bandanna related to bandit? Despite some similarity in spelling, bandit derives from the Italian banditi, “outlaws,” formed from a verb meaning “to bandish.”
Bandanna vs. bandana
Bandanna can also be spelled bandana. In fact, data indicates that the spelling bandana is becoming more common. But, whether you prefer spelling the word with two or three n’s, both bandanna and bandana are correct.
How to use bandanna in a sentence
She is wearing denim overalls with a bandanna around her waist and mismatched sneakers.Punky Brewster Is Just the Latest Proof That Today's Kids Deserve Better Than ‘80s and ‘90s Reboots|Judy Berman|February 24, 2021|Time
Furry puts the bandanna in his pocket and moves on, walking behind the cart.Stanley Booth on the Life and Hard Times of Blues Genius Furry Lewis|Stanley Booth|June 7, 2014|DAILY BEAST
She at one point appears holding an automatic pistol, a black bandanna covering the lower half of her face.Chicago’s Gun-Toting Gang Girl: ‘Lil Snoop’|Michael Daly|April 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Some reviewers gave her flak for relying a bit too heavily on her cue cards in this one, but at least she rocked the bandanna.Lindsay Lohan on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Videos: How’d She Do?|The Daily Beast Video|March 4, 2012|DAILY BEAST
She had a dirty red bandanna tied over her dirty, matted hair and under her grimy double chin.Cabin Fever|B. M. Bower
He carried a stick over his shoulder, and at the end of it swung a small bundle tied up in a red bandanna handkerchief.Motor Matt's Daring, or, True to His Friends|Stanley R. Matthews
Capt. McGillicuddy looked up, recognized the waving of the Deacon's bandanna, and hastened thither.
He put his hand into his pocket for his bandanna and felt the roll of bills, which he had altogether forgotten in his excitement.
She was peeping in at the parlor door now, her head done up deftly in a purple and orange bandanna.The Open Question|Elizabeth Robins