Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Ecclesiastical A stiff square cap with three or four ridges across the crown. Birettas are worn especially by Roman Catholic clergy and are black for priests, purple for bishops, and red for cardinals.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A square cap, originally with four ridges across the top, surmounted by a tuft, worn by Roman Catholic clergy (and by some in the Anglican Church). A three-sided biretta is worn by Roman Catholic clergy for liturgical celebrations.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Same as berretta.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Originally, any small cap worn as distinctive of a trade or profession; afterward, a scholastic cap, or such as was worn indoors by members of the learned professions; now, in the Roman Catholic Church, the ecclesiastical cap.
  • n. BY extension, a Tunis cap; a smoking-cap.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a stiff cap with ridges across the crown; worn by Roman Catholic clergy

Etymologies

Italian berretta, from Old Provençal berret, cap, from Late Latin birrus, hooded cloak, probably of Celtic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian 'biretta' (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Etymologically, the word biretta is Italian in origin and would more correctly be written beretta (cf. however the French barette and the Spanish bireta).

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 2: Assizes-Browne

  • The biretta is the sign of an ecclesiastical pontifical degree.

    Archive 2008-04-20

  • An atelier repetition of this fine original is No. 166 in the Vienna Gallery; the only material variation traceable in this last-named example being that in lieu of St. Ambrose, wearing a kind of biretta, we have St. Jerome bareheaded.

    The Earlier Work of Titian

  • We then moved onto "spin the biretta" - each server is handed the biretta after it has been spun around in the air, and has to hand it to the priest the correct way.

    Archive 2009-06-01

  • Afterwards, the boys pinched my biretta to see if they could land it on the head of the Monsignore as he was later dignified.

    Archive 2009-05-01

  • The fake priest went past, Benedetti, wearing a lumber jacket and a black biretta and carrying a breviary.

    Underworld

  • Szoka, seventy-eight and nearly hairless under his cardinal's red biretta, proudly showed me a bookcase that contained the teachings and writings of John Paul — forty-plus volumes bound in red cloth — and nothing else.

    The Year of two Popes

  • For example, as above, the traditional theology biretta of the Angelicum is totally white.

    Archive 2008-04-20

  • E.g. the *traditional* Angelicum biretta is entirely white incl. piping and pom.

    Archive 2008-04-20

  • Those with degrees from a non-pontifical university cannot wear an academic biretta, they wear the cap or morterboard of their degree granting institution.

    Archive 2008-04-20

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Comments

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  • "Julian was hanging up his biretta on a peg in the narrow hall."
    Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, p 13 of the Plume paperback edition

    March 11, 2012

  • "Joseph, his hands rough as wood, lapping into folds the long crimson sash made in Rome, then carefully placing the crimson biretta on top."
    - 'The Colour Of Blood', Brian Moore.

    January 3, 2008