Definition of surplice in 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.

    • ‘‘If they were presented in ruffs and surplices,’ Stainer contends, ‘it might alienate people.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Stretching along each side are lines of choirboys and girls in bright surplices, holding flags and honey-scented tapers.’
    • ‘White T-shirts, white jeans, white ponchos, even white surplices stood out in the hot July sun.’
    • ‘This was about the clerk of that parish, whose wife used to wash the parson's surplices.’
    • ‘Powerful lights made their white surplices glow like neon, and the pulpitted priest seemed to be borne aloft on a cloud of pure radiance.’
    • ‘Once I had stuffed myself behind the wheel with my surplice billowing around me like a collapsed parachute, I switched into passive mode.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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
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Middle English: from Old French sourpelis, from medieval Latin superpellicium, from super- ‘above’ + pellicia ‘fur garment’.