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What is the origin and first use of the word "comforter" when used to describe what, in the US, is known as a scarf?

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  • OED's first citation for the "original" sense One who or that which comforts or consoles is 1382. They specifically list A long woollen scarf worn round the throat as a protection from cold with first citation 1823, which is rather odd considering their first citation for A thing that produces physical comfort isn't until until 1837 (the comforter in that example being a plaid blanket). I'd have expected those latter two to be the other way around. The baby's rubber dummy sense (primarily AmE) wasn't recorded until 1898. Feb 21, 2016 at 22:59
  • FYI, in current U.S. usage, a "comforter" is generally a quilted blanket or bed-covering.
    – Joe L.
    Feb 22, 2016 at 2:55

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On the origin of "comforter":

In Dutch, a 'komfoor' was used to keep things warm (foodstuffs, blacksmithing tools, heater, etc). With a lot of words in the English language originating from mainland Europe, I suspect 'comforter' comes from the same source. A quick check shows that 'komfoor'(spelled as 'caufoor' around 1300) comes from the Latin 'calefacere' via the French word 'chauffoir', both meaning as much as 'make warm'.

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  • Well ... comforter also comes from comfort, which comes from Late Latin comfortare. But it's quite possible that comforters used to keep things warm originate from a merger of the English and Dutch words. (Or rather, from the Dutch word comfoor lending its meanings to the English word comforter.) Feb 25, 2016 at 15:39
  • Hmm... I considered that, but with most explanations concerning confortare calling it 'courage' or 'consolation' (be or get strong with an emphasis on the mental aspect), I figured that even 'comfortable' came from 'calefacere', with the -able suffix originally coming from 'able to make or feel warm'. With no latin knowledge to speak of on my part, you are probably right.
    – Terah
    Feb 25, 2016 at 15:53
  • Yes ... comfort originally meant support and consolation in English, but the meaning has changed since the 13th century. However, comforter used to mean a scarf or blanket doesn't really seem to come naturally from the previous English meanings (people, dogs, alcohol, tobacco pipes), so might easily have been influenced by the Dutch word. Feb 25, 2016 at 16:12

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