Word of the Day



a long loose piece of clothing with wide sleeves

a. a long loose dress

Origin and usage

The word kaftan (sometimes spelt ‘caftan’) came from a Persian word ‘khaftan’, and entered English via Turkish and French. A khaftan was originally a long vest-like robe with long sleeves that was tied at the waist and typically worn by men. In Western fashion, the word kaftan was first used to describe a long, flowing dress around the mid-1950s.


Kaftan is a word that describes a long, loose and flowing dress with wide sleeves.

In ancient Middle Eastern and African cultures, the kaftan was traditionally worn by men over their other clothing, almost like a coat. The first kaftans were made of silk, cotton, wool or cashmere. They were sometimes worn with a belt or sash.

By the 1950s, Western fashion designers began to incorporate kaftans into their collections. These loose, flowing dresses and robes become very popular with stylish women across Europe and North America. The style gained even more popularity in the West during the 1960s and early 1970s, when young people started to dress more casually. Kaftans were easy to wear and very comfortable, and often came in bright, bold patterns and colours.

Kaftans remain a popular piece of casual clothing today. It is not uncommon to see women in kaftan dresses while on beach holidays or in warmer climates where the heat can make more formal dressing uncomfortable.


“When I lived in Egypt, we always wore kaftans. I had cashmere kaftans from Halston. You put on a kaftan in your backyard, and it’s like you’re in Ibiza.”




View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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  • Thank you for your comment, Shaida. Several etymological dictionaries give a Farsi origin for this word, and my husband, who is Iranian, found references in his dictionaries to it being used in the south-east of the country to describe a form of traditional Baluchi dress. It seems clear that it came into English via Turkish and French, however, so I have amended the post to reflect this.

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