Fascinator

An example of a fascinator

I learnt a new word from the radio this morning – fascinator. They were talking about hats and somebody mentions the fascinator, something I hadn’t heard of before.

A fascinator or facinator hat is: “a small headpiece usually mounted on a base, comb or headband worn jauntily to the front or side incorporating a combination of feathers, flowers, coils, curls and other trimmings.” [Source]

Apparently the fascintor was originally a fine, lacy head covering made of wool or lace and like a shawl. It went out of fashion in the 1970s, but has made a come-back recently in a different form. They are almost exclusively worn by women, especially to special occasions like weddings and big race meetings such as Ascot. [Source]

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

9 Responses to Fascinator

  1. Yenlit says:

    Funnily enough I stumbled into a conversation about the same thing not so long ago. The woman who was talking about the fascinators initial didn’t know what they were called then suddenly remembered that they had a specific name beginning with ‘f’ and blurted out ‘fascinator’! Being a bloke I didn’t have a clue about such fancy things and that was the first time I’d learnt fascinators were called by that name.
    The dictionary says the term is rare (in the older sense) but I didn’t know fascinator had an older history?

  2. michael farris says:

    The word in its original meaning is used by Agatha Christie in A Caribbean Mystery when Miss Marple is wearing one when she wakes someone at night to announce who the murderer is.

    Actually without checking the books I’m not sure if the word appeared in that novel but it very definitely did when she thinks back to the incident in the sequel Nemesis.

  3. Andrew says:

    LOL, I love that it’s called that, the word describes what the device is supposed to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if the name was originally a marketing gimmick, it sounds like an old-fashioned one.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  4. Sandra says:

    I have learnt this word recently too, and in an article about Royal Ascot, of course ;-).
    I don’t think there is an equivalent in French for “fascinator” in its modern sense (the old one, the Miss Marple’s one, could be called a “mantille”, perhaps). Not for the actual thing either, actually. A very British institution, it seems. After all, the only use of this thing seems to be to allow you to enter the royal enclosure at Royal Ascot without a proper hat, just a nominal one.

  5. Christopher Miller says:

    I think the meaning comes not from being fascinating but from the fact the device fastens the hair in a bundle: a “fasces”, which originally was a bundle of sticks wrapped together. When you are “fascinated” with something you are metaphorically “wrapped up” in it in a bundle; in French, you are “emballĂ©”.

  6. dreaminjosh says:

    Hm, then wouldn’t it be spelled “fastenator” or “fascenator”? I don’t think the accessory fastens the hair in a bundle anyway- it’s merely placed on top of the head and really serves no functional purpose. I know old ladies that still wear things like this in church. Plus, “fascinate” is apparently derivative of Latin “fascinatus” which carried the meaning of “bewitching” or “enchanting”.

  7. Can’t believe you haven’t heard of a facinator before, they have been all over the heads of women at weddings for at least the past 5 years!
    Awful things…not at all ‘enchanting’ or ‘fascinatus’ at all if you ask me.

  8. Christopher Miller says:

    Dreamingjosh, it seems you’re right. That goes to show I should double check before I write down something I mistily recollect from I no longer recall where. Sorry for the well-meaning misinformation!

  9. dreaminjosh says:

    No need to apologize Christopher; creative thinking like that keeps everything interesting and is indicative of real intelligence!