See more synonyms for petticoat on
  1. Also called pettiskirt. an underskirt, especially one that is full and often trimmed and ruffled and of a decorative fabric.
  2. any skirtlike part or covering.
  3. a flounce or valance fitting around the sides of a bed, couch, or chair, as to conceal the legs.
  4. Informal: Sometimes Offensive. a woman or girl (usually used facetiously).
  1. Informal: Sometimes Offensive. of, relating to, or controlled by women; female; feminine: petticoat government.

Origin of petticoat

First recorded in 1375–1425, petticoat is from the late Middle English word petycote. See petty, coat
Related formspet·ti·coat·less, adjectiveun·der·pet·ti·coat, noun

Usage note

In reference to a female, this term is usually used for humorous effect, but is sometimes perceived as insulting or demeaning to women. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for petticoat

Contemporary Examples of petticoat

Historical Examples of petticoat

  • This is my dress, and there's a petticoat and stockings to match it.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • Indecent, if you ask me, with not a petticoat under it, I'll be bound!

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • You see it is impossible for him to stop in here with you for ever, as if he was sewn on to your petticoat.

    A Hero of Our Time

    M. Y. Lermontov

  • But she soon laid it down on the work-table, between a petticoat and a bundle of shirts.


    Emile Zola

  • So the day of the petticoat politician is not over in Italy yet?

British Dictionary definitions for petticoat


  1. a woman's light undergarment in the form of an underskirt or including a bodice supported by shoulder straps
  2. informal
    1. a humorous or mildly disparaging name for a woman
    2. (as modifier)petticoat politics

Word Origin for petticoat

C15: see petty, coat
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 petticoat

early 15c., pety coote, literally "a small coat," from petty + coat (n.). Originally a padded coat worn by men under armor, applied mid-15c. to a garment worn by women and young children. By 1590s, the typical feminine garment, hence a symbol of female sex or character.

Men declare that the petticoatless female has unsexed herself and has left her modesty behind. ["Godey's Magazine," April 1896]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper