Dictionary.com Word FAQs
Is there a difference between plaid and tartan?
Generally, we think of tartan as the name for the cloth and plaid as the name for the particular pattern, but the words are often used interchangeably so that tartan can mean any checkered pattern and plaid can mean any checkered fabric! Plaid's original definition is 'as a woolen cloth having a checkered or tartan pattern'. It evolved to mean any such checkered or tartan pattern. Tartan's first definition is a 'woolen cloth woven in stripes of various colors at right angles to form a rectangular pattern; also, the pattern and design of such a cloth'. Both words were first recorded around the same time, c. 1500.