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In some regions of the U.S., can the term "coat" be used to designate what other native speakers of other U.S. regions -- and from farther out -- would call a jacket?

Please consider this Ngram: source

And this other one also...source

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There's a nice little discussion here. In any case, the short answer to your question is: Yes. –  Jason C Mar 3 at 5:36
    
(By the way, it's interesting to add "winter coat" and "winter jacket" to your ngram). –  Jason C Mar 3 at 5:58
    
It's not really a local variance, just a variance in the exact kind of thing referred to. –  Mitch Mar 3 at 13:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A coat is longer than a jacket - the jacket doesn't cover the hips and the coat does, or goes even farther to almost the knees.

Usually the insulation goes up to match, but not always. When I lived in Chicago my winter coat was just a lined thick wool coat that went almost to the knees. By keeping the wind off the legs it was warmer than a down parka that left the legs exposed.

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I consider my ski jacket to be a coat. If I had my tuxedo (which goes below the hips) lying next to my ski jacket and someone said bring me the coat, I'd expect them to bring the ski jacket. –  Mitch Mar 3 at 22:23
    
Not if you were about to enter a ballroom you wouldn't. –  Oldcat Mar 3 at 22:50
    
I agree I wouldn't, because of the context. I would still think they made a mistake in using the word coat. –  Mitch Mar 4 at 1:13
    
I don't see how this is a satisfactory answer to your OP. It does not really tell you whether the term "coat" be used to designate what other native speakers of other U.S. regions would call a jacket. Clearly, the phrase "coat and tie" shows that the designations are more complicated than this answer indicates. If Oldcat's reply answers your question, maybe you are asking a different question than the one you posted here. –  sarah Mar 4 at 3:16

In my area (Wisconsin), a coat is a heavier outer garment ("winter coat") and a jacket is lighter ("spring jacket").

Of course, here in the northern part of the country we have very cold winters, and we need different words to describe these things. For example: "Is it warm enough for a jacket, or do I need to bring a coat?"

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Adding "winter coat" and "winter jacket" to the OP's ngram seems to support this. –  Jason C Mar 3 at 5:58
    
Jason C The thing is the results in your ngram makes a lot of sense to me, as long as it sounds pretty obvious -- to my perspective -- that people in the height of winter when it's freezing cold outside tend to go more for long, warm coats that cover up most of their body rather than shorter -- yet warm -- mid waist or 3/4 waist jackets .;) –  Elian Mar 3 at 8:47
    
If a coat is by definition strictly a heavier outer garment and a jacket a lighter one, then it would seem redundant to add 'winter' to 'coat' or 'spring' to 'jacket'. –  sarah Mar 3 at 10:55
    
@sarah Redundant, yes, but it does add clarity when speaking to people that have a different understanding of the meaning of the words. –  Ben Miller Mar 3 at 11:05
    
But note that one says 'ski jacket' not 'ski coat'. "Can you get me my coat out of the closet?" "Which one, your ski jacket?" "Yes, that one." –  Mitch Mar 3 at 13:51

(AmE here)

NG, I don't think it's due to 'dialect'. In Ame, coat usually refers to a longer outergarment whereas jacket usually refers to a shorter one.

Any jacket can be considered a coat (an outer piece of clothing that can be long or short and that is worn to keep warm or dry) but not every coat can be considered a jacket (a garment for the upper body usually having a front opening, collar, lapels, sleeves, and pockets) which has a much more restrictive definition, and can refer not only to short outerwear, but the upper garment in a suit, or anything like it.

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I also tend to differentiate by level of insulation- a coat usually will keep you warmer than a jacket: "How cold is it outside? Do I need my coat? Or can I just wear my jacket?" –  Jim Mar 3 at 2:21
    
I don't know, I think it is somewhat regional, or at least, your description does not agree with my experiences. Personally, I rarely use the term "jacket", and the people I usually communicate with seem to be similar. "Where's your coat?" "Should I wear my coat?" "Put your coat on!" are always used, at least where I'm from, to generally mean any sleeved garment you'd wear in a casual setting to protect yourself from cold. I have a friend from southern California though who always says "jacket" (I've spent my life in Pennsylvania and New York). It feels more like a soda vs. pop thing to me. –  Jason C Mar 3 at 5:32
    
(I've also noticed that my grandparents use "jacket", perhaps there is a generational aspect, too? Maybe more like garbage/trash vs. rubbish or dinner vs. supper than soda vs. pop). The discussion here seems to support the notion that it's fairly arbitrary, generally driven by local habits. –  Jason C Mar 3 at 5:35
    
@JasonC - those are great examples. You might be right. I agree with Jim, though. Coat is warmer. –  medica Mar 3 at 5:47
    
It seems that there are regional differences in usage, but your answer is generally a pretty good one. I'd say that most jackets could also serve as coats, but not all. For instance, I have some very lightweight jackets that I would never call a coat. –  sarah Mar 3 at 11:00

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