[mawr-ter-bawrd, -bohrd]
  1. a board, usually square, used by masons to hold mortar.
  2. Also called cap. a cap with a close-fitting crown surmounted by a stiff, flat, square piece from which a tassel hangs, worn as part of academic costume.

Origin of mortarboard

First recorded in 1850–55; mortar2 + board Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mortarboard

Contemporary Examples of mortarboard

Historical Examples of mortarboard

  • As for the mortarboard and gown, undergraduate opinion rather requires that they be left behind.

  • Mr. Worthington pushed back his mortarboard and revealed the crimson chevron which it had bitten into his bald brow.

    Rest Harrow

    Maurice Hewlett

  • A right instinct sent him tiptoe over his lawn, another made him doff his mortarboard.

    Rest Harrow

    Maurice Hewlett

British Dictionary definitions for mortarboard


  1. a black tasselled academic cap with a flat square top covered with cloth
  2. Also called: hawk a small square board with a handle on the underside for carrying mortar
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for mortarboard

also mortar-board, "academic cap," 1854, probably from mortar (1) + board (n.1); so called because it resembles a mason's square board for carrying mortar. Earlier it was called a mortar cap (1680s) or simply morter (c.1600), from French mortier.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper