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A bolt of grey fustian (noun sense 1).

The noun is derived from Middle English fustian (type of fabric, probably made from cotton, flax, or wool; piece of fustian spread over a bed or mattress) [and other forms],[1] from Old French fustaine, fustaigne (modern French futaine), from Medieval Latin fūstāneum, from (pannus) fūstāneus or (tela) fūstānea, of disputed origin.

Sense 3 (“inflated, pompous, or pretentious speech or writing”) is possibly from the fact that the fabric was sometimes used to make cushion- and pillowcases, thus suggesting that the speech or writing is “padded” or “stuffed”; compare bombast.[2] The relationship between sense 4 (“hot drink made of a mixture of alcoholic beverages with egg yolk, lemon, and spices”) and the fabric is unclear.

The adjective is from an attributive use of the noun.[3]



fustian (usually uncountable, plural fustians)

  1. Originally, a kind of coarse fabric made from cotton and flax; now, a kind of coarse twilled cotton, or cotton and linen, stuff with a short pile and often dyed a dull colour, which is chiefly prepared for menswear.
    • c. 1590–1592, William Shakespeare, “The Taming of the Shrew”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene i], page 221, column 1:
      VVWhere's the Cooke, is ſupper ready, the houſe trim'd, ruſhes ſtrevv'd, cobvvebs ſvvept, the ſeruingmen in their nevv fuſtian, their vvhite ſtockings, and euery officer his vvedding garment on?
    • 1882, James E[dwin] Thorold Rogers, “On the Price of Textile Fabrics and Clothing”, in A History of Agriculture and Prices in England [], volume IV (1401–1582), Oxford, Oxfordshire: Clarendon Press, OCLC 1114763251, page 568:
      Fustian, of which I found only one entry before 1401, occurs frequently in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It appears to have been a ribbed cloth. [] On one occasion (1443) it is described as 'white ribbed fustian.'
    • 1883 March, Thomas Hardy, “The Three Strangers”, in Wessex Tales: Strange, Lively, and Commonplace [], volume I, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1888, OCLC 911789333, pages 12–13:
      His clothes were of fustian, and his boots hobnailed, yet in his progress he showed not the mud-accustomed bearing of hobnailed and fustained peasantry.
    • 1903, “FUSTIAN”, in Daniel Coit Gilman, Harry Thurston Peck, and Frank Moore Colby, editors, The New International Encyclopædia, volume VIII, New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead and Company, OCLC 560374385, page 30, column 2:
      The different names given to fustian cloths depend upon their degree of fineness, and the manner in which they are woven and finished. [] In all fustians there is a warp and filling, or weft thread, independent of the additional filling-thread forming the pile; but in corduroys the pile thread is only 'thrown in' where the corded portions are and is absent in the narrow spaces between.
    • 2009, Giorgio Riello, “The Indian Apprenticeship: The Trade of Indian Textiles and the Making of European Cottons”, in Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, editors, How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850 (Global Economic History Series; 4), Leiden; Boston, Mass.: Brill, →ISBN, ISSN 1872-5155, part III (Regions of Change: Indian Textiles and European Development), page 334:
      The East India company was pursuing its own financial interests, but in doing so was also fostering the establishment of industries such as calico printing — an industry that would have not achieved the same degree of accomplishment if it had confined itself simply to the printing of European fustians (mixed cottons) and linens, both of which were more difficult to print on than cotton.
  2. A class of fabric including corduroy and velveteen.
    • 1855, T[homas] Webster; ‎Mrs. [William] Parkes, “Book XVII. On the Various Textile Fabrics for Clothing and Furniture.”, in D[avid] M[eredith] Reese, editor, An Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy: [], New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, [], OCLC 639939325, chapter IV (Cotton Fabrics for Dress and Furniture), section VIII (Description of the Various Cotton Fabrics), paragraph 5665, page 962:
      Fustian is a species of coarse twilled cotton, but may be considered as a general term which comprehends several varieties of cotton fabrics, as corduroy, jean, velveret, velveteen, thickset, thickset cord, and other stout cloths for men's wearing apparel; from their strength and cheapness, they are very serviceable to agricultural people. It is generally dyed of an olive, leaden, or other colours. [] Fustians are either plain or twilled.
    • 1986 fall (June), Richard Henning Field, “Lunenberg-German Household Textiles: The Evidence from Lunenburg County Estate Inventories, 1780–1830”, in Material History Bulletin = Bulletin d’histoire de la Culture Matérielle[1], volume 24, Hull, Que.: Canadian Museum of Civilization; Ottawa, Ont.: National Museum of Science and Technology, ISSN 0703-489X, OCLC 406462119, archived from the original on 7 April 2022, page 18, column 2:
      Fustian originally referred to a large variety of textiles of linen-and-cotton blend; later it came to mean all-cotton textiles. Common varieties of the fancy fustians are corduroy, jean, pillow, thickset, velveret and velveteen.
    • 2007, Susan M. Ouellette, “Flax from the Field, Cotton from the Sea”, in US Textile Production in Historical Perspective: A Case Study from Massachusetts (Studies in American Popular History and Culture), New York, N.Y.; Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, →ISBN, pages 34–35:
      Fustians, a large group of general-purpose fabrics were mainly woven with a tight heavy texture. Sometimes they were plainly woven, but fustians could also be fashioned with “tufts” creating fabric like corduroy or velveteen. Fustians were used for anything from draperies to dresses or upholstery to men’s waistcoats.
    • 2008, Steve Haywood, chapter 9, in Narrowboat Dreams: A Journey North by England’s Waterways, Chichester, West Sussex: Summersdale Publishers, →ISBN, page 103:
      In the nineteenth century fustian cutting was a major occupation right across the North West and thousands of people in the cotton towns were employed at it. Sometimes the work was done at tables but more often than not the cloth was stretched across rollers and they'd walk up and down all day, slicing through the threads of the weave row by row, using tiny blades fashioned from watch springs and honed until they were as sharp as razorblades. Cutting even a basic fustian, they could walk ten or eleven miles over the length of a shift. With more sophisticated fustians – fabrics like velveteen, for instance – you had to walk further, much further.
  3. (figuratively) Inflated, pompous, or pretentious speech or writing; bombast; also (archaic), incoherent or unintelligible speech or writing; gibberish, nonsense.
    Synonyms: aureation, (obsolete) bombard phrase, grandiloquence, magniloquence, purple prose
    • 1589–1592 (date written), Ch[ristopher] Marl[owe], The Tragicall History of D. Faustus. [], London: [] V[alentine] S[immes] for Thomas Bushell, published 1604, OCLC 863467733; republished as Hermann Breymann, editor, Doctor Faustus (Englische Sprach- und Literaturdenkmale des 16., 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts; 5; Marlowes Werke: Historisch-kritische Ausgabe []; II), Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg: Verlag von Gebr[üder] Henninger, 1889, OCLC 1020475087, scene IV, lines 436–440, page 38:
      Wag[ner]. Vilaine, call me Maister Wagner, and let thy left eye be diametarily fixt vpon my right heele, with quasi vestigias nostras insistere [as if to follow in our footsteps]. / Clown. God forgiue me, he speakes Dutch fustian: / Well, Ile folow him, Ill serue him, that's flat.
    • 1599 (first performance; published 1600), Benjamin Jonson [i.e., Ben Jonson], “Euery Man out of His Humour. A Comicall Satyre. []”, in The Workes of Ben Jonson (First Folio), London: [] Will[iam] Stansby, published 1616, OCLC 960101342, Act III, scene iiii, page 123:
      Monſieur Orange, yond' gallants obserue vs; pr'y thee let's talke fuſtian a little, and gull 'hem: make 'hem beleeue vve are great ſchollers.
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Deformity of Body. Sicknesse. Basenesse of Birth, Peculiar Discontents.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition 2, section 3, member 2, page 260:
      If hee can havvke & hunt, ride a horſe, play at cards and dice, ſvvagger, drinke, ſvveare, take Tobacco vvith a grace, ſing, dance, vveare his cloathes in faſhion, court and pleaſe his miſtris, talke bigge fuſtian, inſult, ſcorne, contemne others and vſe a litle mimicall and apiſh complement aboue the reſt, he is a compleat, (Egregiam verò laudem) a vvell-qualified Gentleman, theſe are moſt of their imployments, this their greateſt cõmendation.
    • 1681, John Dryden, “The Epistle Dedicatory to the Right Honourable John, Lord Haughton”, in The Spanish Fryar: Or, the Double Discovery. [], London: [] Richard Tonson and Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 6484883, Act I:
      I am much deceiv'd if this be not abominable fuſtian, that is, thoughts and vvords ill ſorted, and vvithout the leaſt relation to each other: []
    • 1715, Homer; [Alexander] Pope, transl., “Preface”, in The Iliad of Homer, volume I, London: [] W[illiam] Bowyer, for Bernard Lintott [], OCLC 670734254:
      Nothing that belongs to Homer ſeems to have been more commonly miſtaken than the juſt Pitch of his Style: Some of his Tranſlators having ſvvell'd into Fuſtian in a proud Confidence of the Sublime; others ſunk into Flatneſs in a cold and timorous Notion of Simplicity.
    • a. 1720, Joseph Addison, “Dialogues upon the Usefulness of Ancient Medals. []. Dialogue II.”, in The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; [], volume I, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], published 1721, OCLC 1056445272, page 490:
      Claudian in the deſcription of his infant Titan deſcants on this glory about his head, but has run his deſcription into moſt wretched fustian.
    • 1735, [Alexander] Pope, An Epistle from Mr. Pope, to Dr. Arbuthnot, London; Dublin: Re-printed by George Faulkner, bookseller, [], OCLC 6363280, lines 185–186, page 10:
      And he, vvhoſe Fuſtian’s ſo ſublimely bad, / It is not Poetry, but Proſe run mad: []
    • a. 1798 (date written), Horace Walpole, chapter IX, in Denis Le Marchant, editor, Memoirs of the Reign of King George the Third. [], volume I, London: Richard Bentley [], published 1845, OCLC 963723230, page 131:
      Every preparative of pomp, attitude, and lofty language were called in to make him [John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute] worthy of himself. His admirers were in ecstasies; the few that dared to sneer at his theatric fustian, did not find it quite so ridiculous as they wished.
    • 1880, [Benjamin Disraeli], chapter XXIII, in Endymion [], volume III, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., OCLC 1079347024, page 230:
      Sensible Englishmen, like Endymion and Trenchard, looked upon the whole exhibition as fustian, and received the revelations with a smile of frigid courtesy.
      Used to mean “nonsense”.
    • 1923, Ambroise Vollard, “Cézanne Aspires to the Salon of Bouguereau (1866–1895)”, in Harold L. Van Doren, transl., Paul Cézanne: His Life and Art [], New York, N.Y.: Nicholas L. Brown, OCLC 1085672956, page 49:
      What made [Édouard] Manet a veritable prophet in his day, was that he brought a simple formula to a period in which the official art was merely fustian and conventionality.
    • 2014 March 1, Rupert Christiansen, “English translations rarely sing”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review), London: Telegraph Media Group, ISSN 0307-1235, OCLC 635239717, page R19:
      Anything grandiose or historically based tends to sound flat and banal when it reaches English, partly because translators get stuck between contradictory imperatives: juggling fidelity to the original sense with what is vocally viable, they tend to resort to a genteel fustian which lacks either poetic resonance or demotic realism, adding to a sense of artificiality rather than enhancing credibility.
  4. (alcoholic beverages, archaic) Chiefly in rum fustian: a hot drink made of a mixture of alcoholic beverages (as beer, gin, and sherry or white wine) with egg yolk, lemon, and spices.
    • [1827, [Richard Cook], “RUMFUSTIAN”, in Oxford Night Caps. Being a Collection of Receipts for Making Various Beverages Used in the University, Oxford, Oxfordshire; London: [] Henry Slatter; and Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, [], OCLC 855015101, page 24:
      RUMFUSTIAN. The yolks of twelve eggs, one quart of strong beer, one bottle of white wine, half a pint of gin, a grated nutmeg, the juice from the peeling of a lemon, a small quantity of cinnamon, and sufficient sugar to sweeten it; []]
    • 1832, William Hone, “January 9”, in The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information, [], London: [] [J. Haddon] for Thomas Tegg, [], OCLC 1008509578, column 62:
      Rum Fustian is a "night-cap" made precisely in the same way as the preceding [egg-posset or egg-flip], with the yolks of twelve eggs, a quart of strong home-brewed beer, a bottle of white wine, half-a-pint of gin, a grated nutmeg, the juice from the peel of a lemon, a small quantity of cinnamon, and sugar sufficient to sweeten it.
    • 1853, [Robert F. Riddell], “Drinks, Liqueurs, etc.”, in Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book; [], 4th edition, Madras: [] D. P. L. C. Connor, at the Christian Knowledge Society’s Press, [], OCLC 38894948, page 350:
      Rum fustian [i]s prepared at Oxford as follows: whisk up to a froth the yolks of six eggs and add them to a pint of gin and a quart of strong beer; boil up a bottle of sherry in a sauce-pan, with a stick of cinnamon or nutmeg grated, a dozen large lumps of sugar, and the rind of a lemon peeled very thin; when the wine boils, it is poured upon the beer and gin and drank hot.


Derived terms[edit]



fustian (comparative more fustian, superlative most fustian)

  1. Made out of fustian (noun sense 1).
    • 1593, Gabriel Harvey, Pierces Supererogation: Or A New Prayse of the Old Asse, London: [] Iohn Wolfe, OCLC 165778203; republished as John Payne Collier, editor, Pierces Supererogation: Or A New Prayse of the Old Asse. A Preparative to Certaine Larger Discourses, Intituled Nashes S. Fame (Miscellaneous Tracts. Temp. Eliz. & Jac. I; no. 8), [London: [s.n.], 1870], OCLC 23963073, page 161:
      I was never ſo ſplenetique, when I was moſt dumpiſh, but I could ſmile at a friſe jeſt, when the good man would be pleaſurable, and laugh at fuſtion earneſt, when the merry man would be ſurly.
      Used figuratively.
    • 1611, Thomas Coryate [i.e., Thomas Coryat], “My Obseruations of Argentina or Argentoratum, Commonly Called Strasbourg the Metropolitan City of Alsatia”, in Coryats Crudities Hastily Gobled Vp in Five Moneths Trauells [], London: [] W[illiam] S[tansby for the author], OCLC 702319809, lines 14–18, page 465:
      For my clothes being but a threed-bare fuſtian caſe vvere ſo meane (my cloake onely excepted) that the Boores could not haue made an ordinary ſupper vvith the mony for vvch they ſhould haue ſold them; []
    • 1712 October 12 (Gregorian calendar), Richard Steele, “WEDNESDAY, October 1, 1712. To the Spectator-General of Great Britain.”, in The Spectator, number 498; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume V, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, OCLC 191120697, page 449:
      About a fortnight since, as I was diverting myself with a pennyworth of walnuts at the Temple-gate, a lively young fellow in a fustian jacket shot by me, beckoned a coach, and told the coachman he wanted to go as far as Chelsea.
    • 1753, Tobias Smollett, “He Overlooks the Advances of His Friends, and Smarts Severely for His Neglect”, in The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, volume I, Shakespeare Head edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, [], published 1925, OCLC 219979800, page 146:
      [F]or all my bit of a fustian frock, that cost me in all but forty shillings, I believe, between you and me, knight, I have more dust in my fob, than all these powdered sparks put together.
    • 1857–1859, W[illiam] M[akepeace] Thackeray, “In Hospital”, in The Virginians. A Tale of the Last Century, volume I, London: Bradbury & Evans, [], published 1858, OCLC 1061908157, page 170:
      He was soon at ease with his honest host, whose manners were quite simple and cordial, and who looked and seemed perfectly a gentleman, though he wore a plain fustian coat, and a waistcoat without a particle of lace.
    • 1888 January, Thomas Hardy, “The Withered Arm”, in Wessex Tales: Strange, Lively, and Commonplace [], volume I, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1888, OCLC 911789333, chapter IX (A Rencounter), pages 121–122:
      [S]he was conscious of a rough coffin passing her shoulder, borne by four men. It was open, and in it lay the body of a young man, wearing the smockfrock of a rustic, and fustian breeches.
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[Episode 3: Proteus]”, in Ulysses, London: The Egoist Press, published October 1922, OCLC 2297483, part I [Telemachia], page 43:
      His fustian shirt, sanguineflowered, trembles its Spanish tassels at his secrets.
    • 1972, Edna O’Brien, Night, revised edition, New York, N.Y.: Farrar Straus Giroux, published 1987, →ISBN, page 103:
      Her husband was trying to calm her down, assuage her, and in the end what she did was to put a handkerchief over her face and secure it with the brim of a fustian hat.
  2. Of a person, or their speech or writing: using inflated, pompous, or pretentious language; bombastic; grandiloquent; also (obsolete) using incoherent or unintelligible language.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:verbose
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:concise
    • 1598, John Florio, “Monélle”, in A Worlde of Words, or Most Copious, and Exact Dictionarie in Italian and English, [], London: [] Arnold Hatfield for Edw[ard] Blount, OCLC 222555892, page 231, column 1:
      Monélle, a roguiſh or fustian word, a word in pedlers French, ſignifying wenches, ſtrumpets or whores.
    • 1610 (first performance), Ben[jamin] Jonson, The Alchemist, London: [] Thomas Snodham, for Walter Burre, and are to be sold by Iohn Stepneth, [], published 1612, OCLC 1008120557; reprinted Menston, Yorkshire: The Scolar Press, 1970, OCLC 52009618, Act IV, scene ii:
      Svb[tle]. VVhy, you muſt entertaine him. Fac[e]. VVhat'll you doe / VVith theſe the vvhile? Svb. VVhy, haue 'hem vp, and ſhew 'hem / Some Fuſtian Booke, or the Darke Glaſſe.
    • 1623, H[enry] C[ockeram], “A Premonition from the Author to the Reader”, in The English Dictionarie: or, An Interpreter of Hard English VVords: []; republished in The English Dictionarie of 1623, New York, N.Y.: Huntington Press, 1930, OCLC 221832161, page xvi:
      Wherein by the way let me pray thee to observe that I have also inserted [] even of the fustian termes, used by too many who study rather to bee heard speake, than to understand themselves.
    • 1693, Decimus Junius Juvenalis; W. Bowles, transl., “[The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis.] The Fifth Satyr”, in The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis. Translated into English Verse. [] Together with the Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus. [], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson [], OCLC 80026745, page 60:
      And why wou'dſt thou theſe mightly Morſels chuſe, / Of Words unchaw'd, and fit to choak the Muſe? / Let Fuſtian Poets with their Stuff be gone, / And ſuck the Miſts that hang o're Helicon; []
    • 1839, Henry Hallam, “History of Poetry from 1550 to 1600”, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe, in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, volume II, London: John Murray, [], OCLC 1010569041, section IV (On English Poetry), paragraph 73, page 318:
      [Alexander] Pope, after censuring the haste, negligence, and fustian language of [George] Chapman, observes "that which is to be allowed him, and which very much contributed to cover his defects, is a free daring spirit that animates his translation, which is something like what one might imagine Homer himself would have written before he arrived at years of discretion."
  3. (obsolete)
    1. Imaginary; invented.
    2. Useless; worthless.



  1. ^ fustian, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ fustian, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ fustian, n. and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022.

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from Old French fustaine, from Medieval Latin fūstāneum.


  • IPA(key): /fusˈtɛi̯n/, /ˈfustin/
  • (pseudo-learned) IPA(key): /fustiˈaːn/, /ˈfustjan/


fustian (uncountable)

  1. A cloth made of cotton, flax or wool, being the ancestor of modern fustian.
    • 1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “(please specify the story)”, in The Canterbury Tales, [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, [], [London]: [] [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes [], 1542, OCLC 932884868, line 75-8:
      Of fustian he wered a gypon / Al bismotered with his habergeoun, / For he was late ycome from his viage, / And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
      He wore a fustian tunic, / all smothered [with rust]] from his habergeon / because he'd lately returned from his travels / and went to make his pilgrimage.
  2. A piece of such cloth used as a bedspread.


  • English: fustian
  • Scots: foustie