Romper Terms

Figure 1.--.

HBC does not yet have a list of foreign language terms for rompers. The terms we know of our interesting as we will add addition terms here as we learn of them. The various terms are notble for their destinctivness and variety. Perhaps the most notable foreign-language term is the French word "barboteuse", in part because of the importance of the romper style in France. Some of the terms are obvious like rompers, derived from "to romp", other terms like "barboteuse" are less clear. Some of the terms such as in Dutch and German are related while many of the terms are completly different.


The American term is romper. It is based on the verb "romp" which means to play or frolic in a lively, boisterous manner. The romper was actually a revolution in children's wear. Even small children had been dressed in elaborate often frilly and cumbersome outdits. Romers left young limbs free to play. The actual dictionary definition of rompers is a children's one-piece garment consisting of both shirt and short bloomer-like pants.


We do not yet know what rompers were called in Argentina, perhaps the same as Spain, but because of the Italian influence in Argentina we believe that rompers were worn there.


Romperts as in France were a very popular boys garment in Belgium from the 1920s through the early 1950s. The Belgians use two different terms for rompers. French speakers like the French say "barboteuse". Dutch speakers like the Dutch say "speelpakje."


I've at least once seen a Brazilian text refer to rompers with "macacão". Hopefully Brazilian readers may contribute some insights here.


We are not sure yet if the English terms for these outfits is the same as the American term.


The French word for rompers is "barboteuse". A french reader tells HBC that the word is derived from the verb "barboter" meaning to paddle in the water. I don't quite see the connection. One of HBC's French readers informs us, "It's one of the mysteries of the French language, there are at least as many in English. "Barboteuse" is derived from the verb barboter meaning to flounder or thrash, bu it can also be used in connection with childrn's play. You can perfectly well say "Le bébé barbote dans l'eau/dans son berceau" for "The baby is thrashing/playing about in the water/in his cradle. So the etymology is much the same as in English. Barboter means playing in the water. Let's assume that at origin small boys who like so much play in the water where dressed like that with bare legs and feet." Perhaps the best translation in this sence is "paddle" or "patter". The same term was used in Belgian by French speakers. A French reader writes, "Concerning the french word barboteuse, it is regognized by all French speakers. We have no another word for this sort of garment. Although in the 1960s and to be modern, one employed the term " costume bloomer ". This is, however, a style of suit that was a bit different from the cl;assical barboteuse classical romper suit. These barboteuse suit was also never worn by little girls. What is a bit strange is that barboteuse suits were made in pink among other girls."


One German term is "Spielanzug". It appears to be similar to the Dutch. I seems to mean play suit, but perhaps one of our German readers can tell us more about just what the words mean. Another HBC reader reports that Spielhöschen is the word more used in the popular language than Spielanzug (written allways with S and no s).


Italy is another country in which rompers were especilly popular. We believe the Italian term is "pagliaccetto," but we have no information at this time as to the derivation of this term.


Term unknown.


Mexicans refere to rompers as "mameluco". Mameluco in Mexico means a baby or very young child that is still nursing. The name is used for rompers in Mexico because they are worn by young children--although in fact not necesarily children that are so young that they are still nursing.

(The) Netherlands

There is no Dutch word with the precise meaning of romers. The English term rompers mean a loose outer garment combining a waist and short bloomer-like pants. Commonly they were shorts with elastic gathered leg openings. They were often play suits, some were made uinto more formal outfits. The Dutch say "speelpakje," a suit to play in or play suit. This could include a variety of different outfits, some of which would not be called rompers in English.


The Portuguese say "fato-macaco" (monkey suit) which reminds me of the "tjelana monjet" that Dutch boys wore in the Indies. The difference is that a "tjelana monjet" is rather wide and loose at the legs, whereas a "fato-macaco" is like a French barboteuse, close-fitting and often gathered at the legs with elastic. Fato-macaco is also the term for dungarees or "bib and brace overalls" for adults. Clothing terminology is notorious for differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese.


One reader in Spain translates rompers as "mono", which has many other meanings in Spain. He take it as a presomption that rompers were not very popular in Spain as no specific word was set for this garment. The Spanish meaning used for rompers is probably mono used in the sence of "monkey" and thus appears to relate to the Portuguese "fato-macaco" or "little monkey suit". Presumably the derivation of the word is that a little boy in a comfortable romper suit is free of restrictive clothing and can romp and swing like a monkey. Rompers in Mexico are called "mameluco".


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Created: October 26, 2001
Last updated: 8:27 PM 10/28/2004