I have seen many movies/television serials in which people use handkerchiefs over their mouth and cheeks tied at the back of their head, to cover up their identity while committing a robbery or simply if they are a part of gangs/thugs on the roads. What's that called? Similar to neck scarf, could I simply call it 'throat scarf' (does this even exist?). I am hesitant to use the word 'mask' because in my opinion it would convey that the entire face is covered.

Secondly, how would I say someone to put up the handkerchief like the "mystery word"? (P.S: I don't intend to rob anyone of anything btw)

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    It's a good question. My first thought would be to write, "The robber wore a kerchief/bandana as a mask." However this doesn't answer your request for a single-word. [kerchief:- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerchief ] --- [ bandana bandanashop.com/bandanahistory.html ] – chasly from UK Nov 1 '15 at 10:33
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    Masks don't necessarily cover your entire face. Especially "medical masks". – user140086 Nov 1 '15 at 10:58
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    A "How to tie" a neck-scarf (or headscarf) around your face instruction video youtube.com/watch?v=NJhhZWLnUOo (I've seen it all, now) – Mari-Lou A Nov 1 '15 at 11:03
  • @chaslyfromUK Why did you not make that an answer? – Jony Agarwal Nov 1 '15 at 17:00
  • @Rathony Thanks. I realized that only sometime after I posted the question(I googled 'Batman mask' to clear my confusion later). – Jony Agarwal Nov 1 '15 at 17:02

Consider "bandana", the hallmark of many a robber's outfit:

bandana or bandanna: a large brightly colored piece of cloth that you wear around your head or neck


When there's a riot or robbery, news reports often talk about robbers, protesters or looters wearing bandanas over their faces:

The protesters, some wearing bandanas over their faces, spray-painted messages against police.

(News source)

"Neckerchief" may also work:

neckerchief: A kerchief worn around the neck.

(American Heritage Dictionary)

He was wearing a neckerchief pulled up over his nose and a pair of yellowtinted shooting glasses.

(Google Books)

EDIT: Here's a visual example of "bandana":

enter image description here

The robber is described as a black male, 20 to 25 years old, 6 feet, to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, about about 180 to 190 pounds. He was wearing a black beanie hat, red bandana covering his face, blue thermal-style long-sleeve shirt and dark jeans.


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  • For a contemporary description I'd say bandana or scarf. Neckerchief/kerchief sound extremely anachronistic to me. – Dan Nov 1 '15 at 13:47
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    @Dan I'd go with "bandana" myself, most definitely, but I don't know about "extremely anachronistic": books.google.com/ngrams/… Plus, neither "neckerchief" nor "kerchief" are marked as old-fashioned or archaic in modern dictionaries. – A.P. Nov 1 '15 at 13:57
  • interesting! I reran ngrams for recent years - english.stackexchange.com/questions/284087/… and I am very surprised that kerchief is as used as bandana/bandanna. It's not a word I have ever used and I know it only from period novels (and possibly cowboy comic strips). I should get out more! – Dan Nov 1 '15 at 14:33
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    ... and he's armed with what appears to be a hotel-issue hair dryer. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 1 '15 at 14:38
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    Neckerchief would be familiar to people who've been through the Scouting system (at least in the Commonwealth; I don't know about the US). Apart from that, it's about as current as puttees or spats. – bye Nov 1 '15 at 17:29

Perhaps a vizard ? It's an old word but seems to fit. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/vizard

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Are you talking about a balaclava? Otherwise, a scarf or mask would suffice.

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    Maybe throw some images up from google images – WernerCD Nov 1 '15 at 16:36
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    @One_Island It covers the entire face actually so not exactly answers my question but thanks. I somehow wanted to know that word too :) – Jony Agarwal Nov 1 '15 at 16:58

Bandana was my first thought, but one feels the need to clarify that the bandana is over the person's face, as bandanas are also worn around the neck and on the head.

To signify that it's covering the face, the best single word is mask.

From Wiktionary (emphasis added):

A cover, or partial cover, for the face, used for disguise or protection.

So masks don't need to cover the whole face, they can be a partial cover.

To tell someone to put this mask on may depend on where it is to begin with. Often times a bandana will be worn around the neck, and then raised to become a mask, which would make "up" make at least as much sense as "on". You might say "masks up!" or "masks on!". Less tersely, you might say "put your masks on" or "put your masks up". More tersely, a robber may simply tell his crew, "masks!".

Really though, the best way to refer to this item is as a "bandana mask". It's not one word, but it clearly indicates both the material and the location. Go to Google, and do an image search for 'bandana'. Very few, if any, of the results will be over someone's mouth. Now search for 'mask'. Very few, if any, of the results are bandanas. Now, search for 'bandana mask'. You get exactly what you're looking for.

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  • It's not covering the entire face. We can still see the eyes and the forehead of the person after he puts the "mystery word" – Jony Agarwal Nov 2 '15 at 4:46
  • @JonyAgarwal Yes, that's my point. Masks don't need to cover the entire face. They can be a partial cover. – DCShannon Nov 2 '15 at 19:11
  • @JonyAgarwal Added some comments on putting the masks on. – DCShannon Nov 2 '15 at 19:14

I've heard an archaic origin of the tie cravat to be originally used by highwaymen. Perhaps that's what you're referring to.

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    cravat is something which covers your Adam's apple and neck. In my question I specified covering mouth and cheeks – Jony Agarwal Nov 1 '15 at 16:55

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