suit

Definitions

General English

Law

  • noun a civil legal case

Slang

  • noun a bureaucratic functionary, apparatchik, corporation man. The term appeared in the 1980s and is used contemptuously or dismissively by working people and, especially, the fashionable young. In 1989 and 1990 the elaboration ‘empty suit’ was heard, underlining the notion of anonymity.

Travel

  • noun two or three pieces of clothing made of the same cloth, usually a jacket and/or waistcoat and trousers or skirt

Origin & History of “suit”

As in the case of its first cousins sect and set, the etymological notion underlying suit is ‘following’. It comes via Anglo-Norman siute from vulgar Latin *sequita, a noun use of the feminine past participle of *sequere ‘follow’, which in turn was an alteration of Latin sequī ‘follow’ (source of English consequence, persecute, sequence, etc). It was originally used for a ‘body of followers, retinue’, and it passed from this via a ‘set of things in general’ to (in the 15th century) a ‘set of clothes or armour’. Suite (17th c.) is essentially the same word, but borrowed from modern French. A suitor (13th c.) is etymologically a ‘follower’.
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