"Pyjama" redirects here. For other meanings of "pyjama" or "pajama" or similar see Pajamas (disambiguation).

Pajamas, also spelled pyjamas (see also spelling differences), can refer to several related types of clothing. The original paijama are loose, lightweight trousers fitted with drawstring waistbands and worn in South and West Asia by both sexes.[1] In many English-speaking nations, pajamas are loose-fitting, two-piece garments derived from the original garment and worn chiefly for sleeping,[2] but sometimes also for lounging,[3] also by both sexes.[4] More generally, pajamas may refer to several garments, for both daywear and nightwear, derived from traditional pajamas and involving variations of style and material.

The word "pyjama" or "pajama", which originally derives from the Persian word پايجامه (Peyjama meaning "foot garment"), was incorporated into the English language during British Raj through the Hindustani (the progenitor language of modern-day Urdu and Hindi).[5]


Types of pajamas


Traditional pajamas for sleeping.

Traditional pajamas consist of a jacket-and-trousers combination made of soft fabric, such as flannel;[6] the jacket has a placket front and its sleeves have no cuffs.[7] In colloquial speech, these are often called pjs, jim jams or jammies;[8] in South Asia, and sometimes in South Africa, they are known as night suits.


Pajama bottoms worn with sweatshirt.

These are derived from traditional pajamas, and may be variations of style only, such as short sleeve pajamas,[9] pajama-bottoms of varying length,[10] or, on occasion, one-piece pajamas,[11] or may involve variation in material used as well. Chiefly in the US, the latter type may refer to stretch-knit sleep apparel with rib-knit trimmings. Usually worn by children, these garments have pullover tops (if two-piece) or have zippers down the fronts (if one-piece), and may also be footed. Although pajamas are usually distinguished from non-bifurcated sleeping garments such as nightgowns, in the US, they can sometimes include the latter, as in babydoll pajamas.[12]


Even more generally, pajamas may refer to women's combination daywear, consisting of short-sleeved or sleeveless blouses and lightweight pants; examples of these are capri pajamas, beach pajamas, and hostess pajamas.[13]


Pajamas are usually loose fitting and designed for comfort, using softer materials such as cotton or the more luxurious silk or satin. Synthetic materials such as polyester and Lycra are also available.

Designs and patterns

Pajamas often contain visual references to a thing that may hold some special appeal to the wearer. Images of sports, animals, balloons, polka dots, stripes, and other things may all be used to decorate them. Pajamas may also be found in plainer designs, such as plaid or plain gray, but when worn in public, they are usually designed in such a way that makes their identity unambiguous. Older styles of children's pajamas have been depicted as having a square button-up flap covering the buttocks.


Pajamas are often worn with bare feet and sometimes without underwear, . They are often worn as comfort wear even when not in bed, and are also sometimes worn as a fashion statement. In North America, some people have started to wear pajama pants in public as fashion.[citation needed] In China, it is not unusual in the late afternoon or evening, to have adults wear their pajamas in public around their local neighborhood.[14] The supermarket Tesco in St Mellons, Cardiff, Great Britain started a ban on pajamas in January 2010.[15]


The word "pajama" was incorporated into the English language from Persian. The word originally derives from the Persian word پايجامه Payjama meaning "leg garment."

The worldwide use of pajamas (the word and the garment) is the result of British presence in South Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.[16] According to Yule and Burnell's Hobson-Jobson (1903)[17] the word originally referred to loose trousers tied around the waist.

Such a garment is used by various persons in India e.g. by women of various classes, by Sikh men, and most by Muslim of both sexes. It was adopted from the Muslim by Europeans as an article of dishabille and of night attire ... It is probable that we English took the habit like a good many others from the Portuguese. Thus Pyrard (c. 1610) says, in speaking of Goa Hospital: "Ils ont force calsons sans quoy ne couchent iamais les Portugais des Indes" ... The word is now used in London shops. A friend furnishes the following reminiscence: "The late Mr. B—, tailor in Jermyn Street, some 40 years ago, in reply to a question why pyjammas had feet sewn on to them (as was sometimes the case with those furnished by London outfitters) answered: 'I believe, Sir, it is because of the White Ants."[18]

Examples. 1828: "His chief joy smoking a cigar in loose Paee-jams and native slippers." Orient. Sport. Mag. reprint 1873, i. 64. 1881: "The rest of our attire consisted of that particularly light and airy white flannel garment, known throughout India as a pyjama suit." Haekel, Ceylon, p. 329.[19]

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, "They were introduced in England as lounging attire in the 17th century but soon went out of fashion. About 1870 they reappeared in the Western world as sleeping attire for men, after returning British colonials brought (them) back ...."[20]

References in popular culture

  • Author Lucy Maud Montgomery, touches upon how pyjamas were viewed by the Canadian provincial culture in her 1931 novel, A Tangled Web: "The night before, as he was sitting on his bed, studying if there were any way to wheedle the secret out of Dandy Dark, he had absently put both feet into one pyjama leg. Then when he stood up he fell on the floor in what his terrified wife at first thought was a fit. Very few of the clan sympathized with him as to his resulting shoulder. They thought it served him right for wearing new-fangled duds. If he had had a proper nightshirt on it couldn't have happened."[21]
  • The Pajama Game was a Broadway musical and film highlighting workers at a pajama factory.
  • Pajamas played a prominent role on a popular kids television show known as Bananas in Pyjamas. The show detailed the adventures of two bananas while wearing their pajamas.
  • Pajamas Media is an online advertising and publishing company created by bloggers Roger L. Simon and Charles Johnson. The term derives from CNN president Jonathan Klein's 2004 dismissal of bloggers as "a guy sitting in his living room in his pyjamas.".[22]
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a 2006 novel about a child in a concentration camp, written from the perspective of an innocent child who befriends him.

See also


  1. ^ cf. The Oxford English Dictionary. 1989 edition. Oxford University Press. Oxford and London.
  2. ^ "'Moe' with owners James Davis & wife, in bed in children's pajamas, at home.", Life magazine, 1971, (Photographer: Ralph Crane).
  3. ^ "Model clad in lounging pajamas featuring peg-top trousers like jodpurs for sale at Neiman Marcus" Life magazine, 1939, (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt)
  4. ^ "Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos playing native Brazilian folk instrument from his collection, while wearing jacket over his pajamas & smoking cigarette; at home." Life magazine, 1945 (Photographer: Unknown; Location: Rio De Janeiro)
  5. ^ Dictionary Meaning: Pajama; TheFreeDictionary; Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedia
  6. ^ "Girl sitting on bed and wearing striped flannel pajamas and Donald Duck slippers." Life magazine, December 1949, (Photographer: Nina Leen).
  7. ^ "Millionaire Charles Ponzi posing for photograph in pajamas." Life magazine, 1942, (Photographer: Hart Preston).
  8. ^ "Three college students wearing their pj's and playing in the bunk bed of their dorm room during rush week at the University of Illinois." Life magazine, September 1956 (Photographer: Grey Villet).
  9. ^ "Model wearing cotton-crepe pajamas." Life magazine, 1939, (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt).
  10. ^ "Harriet Traynham (R) and her guests still wearing their pajamas at 3:15 pm," Life magazine, August 1951 (Phtographer: Lisa Larsen)
  11. ^ "Actress Dorothy McGuire doing morning exercises wearing silk pajamas." Life magazine, 1941, (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt)
  12. ^ "Cynthia Brooks standing with her mother who is making alterations on her 'baby doll' pajamas." Life magazine, March 1957, (Photographer: Peter Stackpole).
  13. ^ "Czech model posing in hostess pajamas." Life magazine, 1968, (Photographer: Bill Ray)
  14. ^ The Pajama Game Closes in Shanghai, The New York Times, 5/14/10
  15. ^ Tesco ban on shoppers in pyjamas
  16. ^ Lewis, Ivor. 1991. Sahibs, Nabobs and Boxwallahs: A Dictionary of Words of Anglo-India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 266 pages. ISBN 0195642236.
  17. ^ Yule, Henry and A.C. Burnell. 1903. Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive. London: John Murray. 1021 pages.
  18. ^ According to Hobson-Jobson, "The insect (Termes bellicosus of naturalists) not properly an ant, of whose destructive powers there are in India so many disagreeable experiences, and so many marvellous stories."
  19. ^ Yule, Henry and A.C. Burnell. Pyjammas, p748.
  20. ^ pajamas. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 29, 2006, from: Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  21. ^ Montgomery, Lucy Maud; Lefebvre, Benjamin (editor) (30 March 2009 (original 1931)). A Tangled Web. Dundurn Press Ltd.. pp. 120 (chapter 2, "Wheels within wheels"). ISBN 978-1-55488-403-2. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  22. ^ Three Political Web Logs Make a Run for the Mainstream, Roderick Boyd, The New York Sun, May 3, 2005. Accessdate: April 16, 2008.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pajamas — Pa*ja mas, n. pl. [Hind. p[=a] j[=a]ma, p[=a]ej[=a]ma, lit., leg closing.] Originally, in India, loose drawers or trousers, such as those worn, tied about the waist, by Mohammedan men and women; by extension, a similar garment adopted among… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pajamas — (n.) 1800, pai jamahs loose trousers tied at the waist, worn by Muslims in India and adopted by Europeans there, especially for nightwear, from Hindi pajama, probably from Pers. paejamah, lit. leg clothing, from pae leg (from PIE *ped foot, see… …   Etymology dictionary

  • pajamas — see pyjamas …   Modern English usage

  • pajamas — [n] sleeping clothes jamas*, jammies*, jams*, loungewear, lounging robe, nightdress, nightie*, nightshirt, nightwear, PJ’s*, sleeper, sleeping suit; concept 451 …   New thesaurus

  • pajamas — (Brit. pyjamas) ► PLURAL NOUN 1) a suit of loose trousers and jacket for sleeping in. 2) loose trousers with a drawstring waist, worn by both sexes in some Asian countries. ORIGIN from the Persian words for leg + clothing …   English terms dictionary

  • pajamas — [pə jä′məz, pəjam′əz] pl.n. [Hindi pājāma < Pers pāi, a leg (< IE * ped ,FOOT) + jāma, garment] 1. a pair of loose silk or cotton trousers worn originally in the Near East 2. a loosely fitting sleeping or lounging suit consisting of top and …   English World dictionary

  • pajamas — pajamaed, adj. /peuh jah meuhz, jam euhz/, n. (used with a plural v.) 1. night clothes consisting of loose fitting trousers and jacket. 2. loose fitting trousers, usually of silk or cotton, worn by both sexes in the Orient. Also, esp. Brit.,… …   Universalium

  • pajamas — See: CAT S MEOW or CAT S PAJAMAS …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • pajamas — See: CAT S MEOW or CAT S PAJAMAS …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • Pajamas — Pyjamas Py*ja mas, or, chiefly U. S., Pajamas Pa*ja mas, n. pl. A garment, similar to the Oriental {pyjama} (which see), adopted among Europeans, Americans, and other Occidentals, for wear in the dressing room and during sleep; also, a suit of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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