Definition of surplice in US English:



  • A loose white linen vestment varying from hip-length to calf-length, worn over a cassock by clergy, acolytes, and choristers at Christian church services.

    • ‘History will be made that weekend when the standard of the order will be raised in the town by the local Knights, who wear a surplice with the cross emblem.’
    • ‘White T-shirts, white jeans, white ponchos, even white surplices stood out in the hot July sun.’
    • ‘Powerful lights made their white surplices glow like neon, and the pulpitted priest seemed to be borne aloft on a cloud of pure radiance.’
    • ‘A piano was played, hymns were sung, we all duly recited the confession, creeds and responses, and the curate ascended the pulpit with surplice flowing.’
    • ‘However, it doesn't match any of the new surplices that have been bought, which go down to about knee level, so I'll not be allowed to wear it in future - at least, not when I'm singing with the rest of my choir.’
    • ‘This was about the clerk of that parish, whose wife used to wash the parson's surplices.’
    • ‘Once I had stuffed myself behind the wheel with my surplice billowing around me like a collapsed parachute, I switched into passive mode.’
    • ‘‘If they were presented in ruffs and surplices,’ Stainer contends, ‘it might alienate people.’’
    • ‘Stretching along each side are lines of choirboys and girls in bright surplices, holding flags and honey-scented tapers.’
    • ‘He became a canon of Salisbury in 1563, but objected to the use of the surplice and to contributing to the repairs of the cathedral.’
    vestment, cassock, rochet, alb, dalmatic, chasuble
    View synonyms


Middle English: from Old French sourpelis, from medieval Latin superpellicium, from super- ‘above’ + pellicia ‘fur garment’.