1. the introductory text appearing in a treaty or agreement that broadly defines its principles
2. used to express appreciation
Origin and usage
The noun chapeau is a borrowing from the French ‘chapeau’ meaning ‘hat’. It was originally used in English in the 16th century to mean a hat or other head covering, but is now mainly used as a specialist term in heraldry.
A recent Word of the Day post looked at subpoena, a legal term that comes from Latin. Today it’s the turn of French. Chapeau is the French for ‘hat’, and is sometimes used with this literal meaning in English. In legal terminology, the chapeau is the introduction to a treaty or agreement that broadly sets out its principles. Chapeau also has another quite different meaning in English. As an interjection, it is used as a humorous expression of appreciation. The image here is of someone lifting their hat as a sign of respect or appreciation, something that is rarely seen in these days when to be hatless is the norm. The legal meaning of chapeau is one of a large number of legal terms that we have added to Macmillan Dictionary over the past couple of years. Meanwhile the interjection seems to have been borrowed directly from French, where the expression chapeau! means ‘well done’.
“This recommended list of illustrative purposes includes all of the uses contained in the chapeau to 17 U.S.C. 107.”
“Chapeau to the winners, and chapeau to all the other talents.”
article, clause, codicil, rider