A surcoat was an outer garment commonly worn in the Middle Ages by both men and women. It can either refer to a coat worn over other garments or the outer garment of a person. The name derives from French meaning "over the cotta", a long, wide coat reaching down to the feet without sleeves.

From about the 12th century, knights wore long and flowing surcoats over their armour, which were frequently emblazoned with the arms of the wearer. They usually extended to about mid-calf, had slits in the bottom front and back, and were sleeved or sleeveless. Historians believe that surcoats were worn to protect mail from direct sun, which heated the mail and the soldier inside. The surcoat also serves in areas of poor weather to keep the rain and muck of battle away from the easily corroded maille-links. The surcoat displayed the "arms" of a knight (origin of "coat of arms") which identified him, which, with the rise of the Great helm in the late 12th century and early 13th century, became more and more crucial. Some historians even cite this as a reason behind the spread of heraldry across medieval Europe. During the 13th century, knights also began to add plates of armour to the surcoat, the armored surcoat later became the medieval coat of plates.

In the 15th century, once suits of plate armour became common, the surcoat was phased out of use. The period in the history of armour development in which surcoats first generally become rare is referred to as the "surcoatless period" (1410-1430).

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  • Surcoat — Sur coat , n. [OE. surcote, OF. surcote. See {Sur }, and {Coat}, and cf. {Overcoat}.] 1. A coat worn over the other garments; especially, the long and flowing garment of knights, worn over the armor, and frequently emblazoned with the arms of the …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • surcoat — outer coat, early 14c., from O.Fr. surcote, from sur on, upon, over, above + cote (see COAT (Cf. coat)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • surcoat — [sʉr′kōt΄] n. [ME surcote < MFr: see SUR 1 & COAT] an outer coat or gown; esp. in the Middle Ages, a loose, short cloak worn over armor …   English World dictionary

  • surcoat — /serr koht /, n. 1. a garment worn over medieval armor, often embroidered with heraldic arms. 2. an outer coat or other outer garment. [1300 50; ME surcote < MF. See SUR 1, COAT] * * * ▪ garment also spelled  Surcote,         sleeved or… …   Universalium

  • surcoat — UK [ˈsɜː(r)ˌkəʊt] / US [ˈsɜrˌkoʊt] noun [countable] Word forms surcoat : singular surcoat plural surcoats a coat with no sleeves that soldiers used to wear over metal armour …   English dictionary

  • Surcoat — a sleeveless cloth gown that a knight wore over armor a long, tunic like, cloth garment worn over the armour, in a variety of forms, from the 1170s to the 1420s. The early surcoat was almost heel length, and progressively became shorter and… …   Medieval glossary

  • surcoat — noun Etymology: Middle English surcote, from Anglo French, from sur + cote coat Date: 13th century an outer coat or cloak; specifically a tunic worn over armor …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • surcoat — noun A loose garment without sleeves worn over a suit of armor, sometimes colored or embroidered with the wearers coat of arms …   Wiktionary

  • Surcoat — Outer coat of rich material, also worn over a suit of armour, decorated sometimes with heraldic coats of *arms; later, such a coat worn shortened was one of the signs of knighthood. [< Fr. sur = over] …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

  • surcoat — sur|coat [ sɜr,kout ] noun count a coat with no sleeves that soldiers used to wear over metal ARMOR …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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