- noun a light piece of underclothing for the top half of the body
- noun a short coat with buttons and without any sleeves, which is worn over a shirt and under a jacket
- verb to transfer to someone a legal right or duty or the legal ownership and possession of land
Origin & History of “vest”
Vest was originally used fairly generally for a ‘robe’ or ‘gown’. Its earliest specific application was to a ‘sleeveless jacket worn under an outer coat’. It was Charles II of England who introduced the fashion, and the first reference to vest in this sense is in Samuel Pepy’s diary for 8 October 1666: ‘The king hath yesterday, in council, declared his resolution for setting a fashion in clothes … It will be a vest, I know not well how; but it is to teach the nobility thrift’. The direct descendant of this is American English vest for ‘waist-coat’. The British application of the word to an undergarment for the upper part of the body did not emerge until the 19th century. The word came via French veste and Italian veste from Latin vestis ‘clothing, garment’. This went back to the Indo-European base *wes-, which also produced English wear. The derived Latin verb vestīre originally meant ‘clothe’, and hence ‘induct into an office by dressing in the appropriate garments’. It has given English its verb vest (15th c.), as well as divest (17th c.) and invest. other English words from the same source include travesty, vestment (13th c.), vestry (14th c.), and vesture (14th c.).