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[mawr-ter-bawrd, -bohrd] /ˈmɔr tərˌbɔrd, -ˌboʊrd/
a board, usually square, used by masons to hold mortar.
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
1850-55; mortar2 + board Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for mortarboard
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • 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
  • As for the mortarboard and gown, undergraduate opinion rather requires that they be left behind.

    An American at Oxford John Corbin
British Dictionary definitions for mortarboard


a black tasselled academic cap with a flat square top covered with cloth
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
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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
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