What’s a cagoule?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: cagoule.

I seldom encounter words that offer me terra incognita. But a word in the very fine novel, Landing Gear, by Kate Pullinger, took me into just such a wild land. Here is the sentence in which it appeared:

It was windy along the river and rain spat at her intermittently, but she kept up a good pace and was soon sweating inside her cagoule.

Obviously, the word referred to a piece of clothing. But what exactly was it. A sweater? A jacket? It beat me. Even though I’m someone who lives — and walks, daily — in Vancouver, the rain capital of North America.

It turns out that a cagoule is the British term (Pullinger lives in Britain) for a lightweight, weatherproof raincoat, with a hood. I call such an item an anorak, which is an Inuit word, but perhaps that’s because I’m Canadian. Usually it doesn’t have a lining and typically it’s somewhere between hip and knee length.

The source of the word is French (from the French cagoule, meaning hood) but, interestingly, there are new fewer than four possible spellings: cagoulecagoulkagoule or kagool. I like the sound of the word, I must admit.

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