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I'm aware of the meaning of "scantily clad", the internet gives some good clues on that (Side question: Does it have erotic implications in itself?). However, what do the actual words mean ("clad" from "clothed"?), from which period is it, and why has it become a fixed expression?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Scantily" is the adverb form of "scanty"

scant·y
adj. scant·i·er, scant·i·est
1. Barely sufficient or adequate.
2. Insufficient, as in extent or degree.

"Clad" does indeed mean "clothed"

So someone "scantily clad" is "insufficient clothed". The phrase describes (typically but not always) young women wearing lingerie.

That is, typically young, typically women, typically lingerie.

I don't know the first citation of "scantily clad" but it has become a useful cliche in common use today.

It is generally risque, typically (but not always) erotic. It is often used to describe "glamour photography"

Glamour photography is a genre of photography whereby the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in a romantic or sexually alluring way. The subjects may be fully clothed or seminude, but glamour photography stops short of deliberately arousing the viewer and being hardcore pornography.

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Thanks, John! Intuitively, does that expression sound medieval? Or from a more recent (Victorian?) era? –  GaspardMonge Jan 9 '11 at 14:44
    
@GaspardMonge - I suspect it's related to photography and thus is late 18th / early 19th century - but that is a complete guess. The wikipedia glamour photography article I cited above mentions "French postcards" and "pinups of the 1900s". Victorian sounds plausible. –  John Satta Jan 9 '11 at 15:11
    
@GaspardMonge - oops - I meant to write 19th / 20th century in the comment above. Mea culpa –  John Satta Jan 9 '11 at 19:14
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