The origin of this word is not clear. The fact that, besides the Lithuanian cognate švar̃kas (“suit jacket, coat”) there is also šar̃kas (“piece of clothing; fisherman's coat”) suggests a Proto-Baltic form *sarkas, the initial šv resulting perhaps from the influence of the common collocate adjective švarùs (“clean”); but there is no parallel adjective in Latvian to justify the initial sv. A possible *sarkas has further been compared with Russian сорочка (soróčka, “shirt”), Old Church Slavonic срака (sraka, “clothing”) and ultimately derived as a borrowing from Vulgar Latin serica, sar(i)ca (“silk, silk clothes”), itself a borrowing from Oriental languages. Some researchers, however, disagree with this comparison.
svārki m (1st declension)
- (men's clothing) coat, jacket (upper part of a suit)
- svārki bez atlokiem — coat without lapels
- vilnas svārki — wool coat
- svārku iekškabata — the inside pocket of a coat
- kājas Kalvicam basas, mugurā tikai svārki uzmesti virs krekla — Kalvics was barefoot, wearing only a (suit) coat on top of (his) shirt
- (women's clothing) skirt (garment covering the lower body, from the waist down)
- kupli svārki — full skirt
- svārki un blūze — skirt and blouse
- jaunas sievietes var atļauties arī kuplākus svārkus zvana griezumā — young women can also allow themselves to wear fuller bell-shaped skirts
- ik uz soļa svārku dziļais iegriezums pavērās pāri celim, un pazibēja zīda zeķē tērptā kāja — at every step the skirt's deep cut opened a little above the knee, flashing a leg clad in silk stockings
The singular form svārks exists in theory, but is apparently never used.
In the context of men's clothing usage of svārki has parallels with the way English dress is used when referring to men's clothing, namely, for a formal, archaic or rustic effect. Colloquially svārki would be unequivocally understood to mean a skirt. It is common to reserve svārki for shorter skirts, for longer styles using brunči instead. Although renditions such as minibrunči or minibruncīši "miniskirt" are equally possible and likely depend on individual preference.