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[sur-plis] /ˈsɜr plɪs/
a loose-fitting, broad-sleeved white vestment, worn over the cassock by clergy and choristers.
a garment in which the two halves of the front cross diagonally.
1250-1300; Middle English surplis < Anglo-French surpliz, syncopated variant of Old French surpeliz < Medieval Latin superpellīcium (vestīmentum) over-pelt (garment), neuter of superpellīcius (adj.), equivalent to Latin super- super- + pellīt(us) clothed with skins + -ius adj. suffix
Related forms
surpliced, adjective
unsurpliced, adjective
Can be confused
surplice, surplus. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for surplices


a loose wide-sleeved liturgical vestment of linen, reaching to the knees, worn over the cassock by clergymen, choristers, and acolytes
Derived Forms
surpliced, adjective
Word Origin
C13: via Anglo-French from Old French sourpelis, from Medieval Latin superpellīcium, from super- + pellīcium coat made of skins, from Latin pellis a skin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for surplices



"loose white robe," late 13c., from Old French surpeliz, from Medieval Latin superpellicium "a surplice," literally "an over fur garment," from Latin super "over" (see super-) + Medieval Latin pellicium "fur garment, tunic of skins," from Latin pellis "skin" (see film (n.)). So called because it was put on over fur garments worn by clergymen to keep warm in unheated medieval churches.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for surplices


white outer vestment worn by clergymen, acolytes, choristers, or other participants in Roman Catholic and in Anglican, Lutheran, and other Protestant religious services. It is a loose garment, usually with full sleeves. Originally the surplice was full length, but gradually it was shortened to the knees or above. In the 20th century some surplices were again made full length

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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