Definition of petticoat in US English:



  • 1A woman's light, loose undergarment hanging from the shoulders or the waist, worn under a skirt or dress.

    • ‘She removed eight petticoats, a corset and silk stockings; finally she stood in just her white linen shift and several pounds of jewelry.’
    • ‘The women wore dresses with many petticoats, gloves on their hands, and bonnets or hats on their heads.’
    • ‘White work in clothing is seen in petticoats, camisoles, waistcoats, caps, baby garments, and cloaks.’
    • ‘It consists of a madras head-tie and a skirt with lace petticoats draped at the sides.’
    • ‘She clapped her hands three times and in walked half a dozen servant girls, carrying undergarments and petticoats.’
    • ‘But that was still two weeks off, and Taira was still dressed in pinafores and petticoats, though now she was where fur shawls in a desperate fight to keep out the cold.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, Caroline Bates nearly set the catwalk on fire with her 50s-inspired creations featuring huge flower prints on A-line skirts worn over taffeta petticoats.’
    • ‘The dress is obviously white but has layers of petticoats beneath the skirt making it poof out.’
    • ‘There was a wardrobe in the corner of the room where I could hang my gowns and a dark-stained dresser sat by the vanity table where I could keep all of my petticoats and other such undergarments.’
    • ‘The gown had small puffy sleeves that were off the shoulder, and a multitude of petticoats made the skirt more full and rustled when the girl walked.’
    • ‘I have always felt more comfortable in skirts and dresses and slips and petticoats.’
    • ‘Layers of stiff net petticoats went under taffeta strapless dresses that made waists look tiny.’
    • ‘The undergarments included stockings, petticoats, drawers, and a corset.’
    • ‘Kirby grabbed the sword at Jason's side and ran, tripping on the skirts and petticoats of her dress.’
    • ‘She swiftly pulled on the tunic, then the stockings, the corset, petticoats, skirt and boots.’
    • ‘She raised her skirts to above her knees, allowing her petticoats and lace stockings to show, but time was of the essence.’
    • ‘After the corset episode, I slipped on a stiff wide hoop skirt and two white petticoats on top of it.’
    • ‘At the bottom of the trunk she found a set of white undergarments including lacy petticoats and a full corseted bodice.’
    • ‘Lydie wore several extra petticoats under her dress and over it was a warm peacoat.’
    • ‘Elizabeth had only gone a little ways into the trees beyond her house when her stays and petticoat lead to her ruin and Will caught her.’
    slip, underskirt, half-slip, underslip, undergarment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1derogatory, informal as modifier Used to denote female control of something regarded as more commonly dominated by men.
      ‘he was in danger of succumbing to the petticoat government of Mary and Sarah’
      • ‘Nancy was renowned as a petticoat president who dominated the White House.’


Late Middle English: from petty coat, literally ‘small coat’: the word originally referred to a garment worn by men under a coat or doublet. The second sense derives from a later use to mean ‘skirt’.