Definition: Costume

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English costume, custume, from Old French costume, custume, from Italian costume, from a Vulgar Latin *cōnsuētūmen or *costūmen, from Latin cōnsuētūdinem, accusative singular of cōnsuētūdō (custom, habit). Doublet of consuetude and custom. Verb circa 1823.


costume (countable and uncountable, plural costumes)

  1. A style of dress, including garments, accessories, and hairstyle, especially as characteristic of a particular country, period, or people.
  2. An outfit or a disguise worn as fancy dress etc.
    We wore gorilla costumes to the party.
  3. A set of clothes appropriate for a particular occasion or season.
    The bride wore a grey going-away costume.

Usage notes

Despite the meaning "traditional clothes," "costume" may be considered pejorative by some cultures as a reference to their own traditional dress, owing to interference from the sense "fancy dress, disguise" (such as if their traditional dress has often been appropriated by others as fancy dress). For example, many Indigenous North Americans disfavor the term "costume" to refer to their traditional and ritual garments and prefer the term regalia.

Derived terms

  • costume party
  • costumer


costume (third-person singular simple present costumes, present participle costuming, simple past and past participle costumed)

  1. To dress or adorn with a costume or appropriate garb.


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