from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A coarse kind of thick woollen cloth, worn by the poor in the Middle Ages.
- n. A woollen cap or hood worn over the shoulders or head.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A coarse kind of thick woolen cloth, worn by the poor in the Middle Ages; also, a woolen cap or hood worn over the shoulders or over the head.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. Under the Roman empire, and later, a cloak with a hood worn as an outer garment for protection from the weather.
- n. A species of coarse thick woolen cloth used by the poorer classes in the middle ages for cloaks and external clothing.
Standard Dictionary, however, points to _burrago_, rough, and relates it indirectly by cross references to _birrus_, a thick, coarse woolen cloth worn by the poor during the thirteenth century.
It probably comes from birrus, a rough cloak with a hood, from the Greek pyrros, flame-coloured, and the birretum may originally have meant the hood.
"If any man", says the council, "uses the pallium [cloak] upon account of an ascetic life, and, as if there be some holiness in that, condemns those who with reverence use the birrus and other garments that are commonly worn, let him be anathema"
Many indications point to this conclusion, e.g. the lacerna, or birrus, and (civil) dalmatic, associated with the martyrdom of St. Cyprian.
In the East it would seem to have been the custom for ascetics and philosophers, whether Christian or not to affect a special habit, but the Christian clergy generally did not profess asceticism in this distinctive way, and were content to wear the birrus (byros) like the laity about them.
Among the Romans, the hood (cucullus, a word of Celtic origin) was worn as a separate garment especially by drivers, herdsmen, and labourers; and by all classes as part of the lacerna, the birrus, and particularly the paenula, varieties of cloaks.
In this nomenclature is mentioned the _birrus_ of Laodicea, an imitation of the _birrus_ of the Nervii, which was a very fine linen cloth, worn by ladies of fashion.