from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A protective covering for the back of a chair or sofa.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An ornamental covering for the backs and arms of chairs, sofas, couches, etc., to keep them from being soiled by oil from the hair; a tidy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A cover for the back or arms of a chair or sofa, etc., to prevent them from wear or from being soiled by macassar or other oil from the hair.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A cover for the back or arms of a chair or sofa, originally to prevent them from being soiled by macassar oil.

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

  • noun a piece of ornamented cloth that protects the back of a chair from hair oils


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

[anti– + Macassar, a brand of hair oil.]


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  • An antimacassar is a small cloth placed over the backs or arms of chairs, or the head or cushions of a sofa, to prevent soiling of the permanent fabric.

    Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Thursday Night Open Thread

  • Of those times I distantly recalled, when I was - if I was who I thought I was - that creature of badinage and rebellion, it seemed that even the university's once fiery spite had subsided, and a kind of antimacassar had been thrown over me - to protect the university or my name from the harm of either, it was not plain to see.

    Excerpt from De Imitatio Calembouri

  • ACT I. _Sitting-room at Rosmershölm, with a stove, flower-stand, windows, ancient and modern ancestors, doors, and everything handsome about it, REBECCA WEST is sitting knitting a large antimacassar which is nearly finished.

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 100, March 21, 1891

  • These articles, however, may still be procured, and to that oil we owe the familiar interposing towel or piece of embroidery the "antimacassar," devised to protect the sofa or easy chair from the unguent of the hair.

    Pickwickian Manners and Customs

  • Harriet toys with the fringe of the antimacassar on her chair.


  • A: “Ormolou” is probably a misspelling of “ormolu,” a kind of gold leaf and not a furniture covering of the sort your sister-in-law probably has in mind, which is an antimacassar.

    The Language Monitor

  • I knew some of that (when I was growing up, every sofa and upholstered chair in the house was adorned with an antimacassar, and I knew the idea was to keep hair dressing from rubbing off on the fabric) but did not know, for instance, the Byron quote.

    Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Thursday Night Open Thread

  • Harriet toys with the fringe of the antimacassar on her chair.


  • The original antimacassar was usually made of stiff white crochet-work, but in the third quarter of the 19th century it became simpler and softer, usually with a simple pattern in wool or silk.

    Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Thursday Night Open Thread

  • I thought I was the only one here old enough to know the word “antimacassar”!!

    Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Thursday Night Open Thread


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  • this is a fantastic word.

    December 13, 2006

  • Antimacassars, thought to be extinct, are breeding in twee B&B's.

    December 14, 2006

  • Macassar oil is a compounded oil used primarily by men in Victorian and Edwardian times as a hair dressing. The antimacassar was presumably used to protect the seat fabric from macassar oil. Obscure eh?!

    January 16, 2007

  • Oh, so nice to meet up with this word. I have two sets of knit lace antimacassars and the little thingies for the arms of the chairs. They were given to me when I was married--my aunties were still using them when I was growing up. I take them out and look at them once in a while, admire the intricate lace and put them away with the knit lace doilies that were also given to me. So sad.

    June 14, 2007

  • I think this is my favourite word in the English language. I love the fact that it's a long word to describe something that everyone knows, but no-one knows the name of! It also reminds me of a big armchair in my late grandparents house. Definitely still used regularly on coaches and trains.

    October 12, 2007

  • I've been to Makassar several times. Survived the trips even without one of these.

    November 21, 2007

  • I learned this word on Wordie just a few weeks ago, and now I'm seeing and hearing it all over the place. What a delight to come across this word while reading and not have to stop and look it up! Here's the most recent usage that caught my eye:

    "The collaboration between hotelier Ritz and his architect was extremely close. Mewès was the kind of artist who pursued the execution of his vision down to the last doorknob. He supervised the finish of the paneling, selected the fabrics for the walls and curtains, even for the silk of the lampshades, and did his best to discourage contemporary enthusiasm for antimacassars. This tireless supervision of every last detail resulted in a whole that was nowhere less than perfect." (John Maxtone-Graham, The Only Way to Cross, New York: Macmillan, 1972, p. 85)

    November 24, 2007

  • No matter how you cut it, NOT up to the impact of antimassacre!

    November 24, 2007

  • From My Friend the Fanatic, by Sadanand Dhume, p. 149: "In the nineteenth century, Makassar (in Indonesia) gave the world the hair oil whose popularity led to the invention of the antimacassar, a cover to protect furniture in Victorian drawing rooms."

    June 21, 2010