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

  • n. Nautical A trysail.
  • n. A short double-breasted overcoat worn by men in the early 19th century.
  • n. A close-fitting, waist-length jacket worn by women.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A short, close-fitting jacket primarily worn by women and children in the early nineteenth century; probably named after George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834).
  • n. A thin knitted woollen vest.
  • n. A large loose-fitted gaffsail on a square-rigger or barque, used from the nineteenth century onwards.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who has the care of the spence, or buttery.
  • n. A short jacket worn by men and by women.
  • n. A fore-and-aft sail, abaft the foremast or the mainmast, hoisted upon a small supplementary mast and set with a gaff and no boom; a trysail carried at the foremast or mainmast; -- named after its inventor, Knight Spencer, of England [1802].

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A man's outer garment or overcoat so short that the skirts of the body-coat worn under it were seen: a fashion introduced about 1800.
  • n. A woman's garment introduced a year or two later, and made in direct imitation of the above.
  • n. Nautical, a trapezoidal fore-and-aft sail set abaft the foremast and mainmast; a trysail.

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

  • n. English philosopher and sociologist who applied the theory of natural selection to human societies (1820-1903)


Perhaps from the name Spencer.
After George John Spencer, Second Earl Spencer (1758-1834).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the family name Spencer. (Wiktionary)



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  • "Her top half was clothed in a spencer, whose hardier material hid the curves her sodden dress could not fail to display. The whole shining sinuous length of her tail emerged from her dress below."
    Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, p 305

    November 14, 2015

  • See this page for more on the type of jacket.

    December 12, 2008

  • Also a type of short jacket. See marine spencer and cork-jacket.

    October 12, 2008