A buskin is a knee- or calf-length boot made of leather or cloth which laces closed, but is open across the toes. It was worn by Athenian tragic actors, hunters and soldiers in Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman societies.

The word buskin, only recorded in English since 1503 meaning "half boot", is of unknown origin, perhaps from Old French brousequin (in modern French brodequin) or directly from its Middle Dutch model brosekin "small leather boot". Figurative senses relating to tragedy are from the word being used (since 1570) to translate Greek kothurnos or Latin cothurnos, the high, thick-soled boot worn in Athenian tragedy; contrasted with sock (from Latin soccus), the low shoe worn by comedians.

Byzantine emperors were formally clad in purple buskins, embroidered in gold with double-headed eagles.[1]

It is also used as a name of a torturing device used in the Middle Ages: the boot.

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic Church, buskins are ceremonial liturgical stockings (caligae in Latin) of silk, sometimes interwoven with gold threads and even heavily embroidered, formerly worn by the celebrant of a pontifical Mass.[2] The buskins can be worn over the episcopal sandals, regular dress socks with regular dress shoes, or over the red papal shoes worn by the Pope.

Originally liturgical buskins were worn by all priests, until about the eighth century when they were reserved for the exclusive use of bishops as part of the pontificalia, i.e. episcopal "regalia", a privilege in modern times extended to some lesser prelates. In liturgical colour they correspond to the chasuble, but are never worn with black.

In rural Norfolk buskins made of sacking were worn by farm labourers prior to the 1960s, especially at haymaking and wheat harvest, to prevent rats from running up the inside of the trouser legs.


  1. ^ John Julius Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium, Penguin 1998, p. 248.
  2. ^ "Buskin". Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03087b.htm. 

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(especially one with high soles, worn by the ancient tragedians) / ,

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Buskin — Bus kin, n. [Prob. from OF. brossequin, or D. broosken. See {Brodekin}.] 1. A strong, protecting covering for the foot, coming some distance up the leg. [1913 Webster] The hunted red deer s undressed hide Their hairy buskins well supplied. Sir W …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • buskin — half boot, c.1500, origin unknown, perhaps from O.Fr. brousequin (14c., Mod.Fr. brodequin, by influence of broder to embroider ) or M.Du. brosekin small leather boot. Figurative senses relating to tragedy are from the word being used (since mid… …   Etymology dictionary

  • buskin — [bus′kin] n. [< ? OFr broissequin < MDu brosekin, small leather boot] 1. a boot reaching to the calf or knee, worn in earlier times; esp., the high, thick soled, laced boot worn by actors in ancient Greek and Roman tragedy 2. tragic drama;… …   English World dictionary

  • buskin — noun historical a calf high or knee high boot. ↘a thick soled laced boot worn by an ancient Athenian tragic actor to gain height. ↘(the buskin) the style or spirit of tragic drama. Derivatives buskined adjective Origin C16: prob. from OFr.… …   English new terms dictionary

  • buskin — noun Etymology: probably modification of Middle French brozequin Date: 1503 1. a laced boot reaching halfway or more to the knee 2. a. cothurnus 1 b. tragedy; especially tragedy resembling that of …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • buskin — /bus kin/, n. 1. a thick soled, laced boot or half boot. 2. Also called cothurnus. the high, thick soled shoe worn by ancient Greek and Roman tragedians. 3. buskins, stockings decorated with gold thread worn by a bishop at a Pontifical Mass. 4.… …   Universalium

  • buskin — noun /ˈbʌskɪn/ a) A half boot. With this knife also, he will joynt a Deere, or any beast, shape his shooes, buskins, mantels, etc. b) A type of boot worn by the ancient Athenian tragic actors; tragic drama, tragedy. Isaac, relieved of one half of …   Wiktionary

  • BUSKIN —    a kind of half boot worn after the custom of hunters as part of the costume of actors in tragedy on the ancient Roman stage, and a synonym for tragedy …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • buskin — bus·kin || bÊŒskɪn n. high Greek sandal; boot (Archaic) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • buskin — n. 1. Half boot (especially one with high soles, worn by the ancient tragedians). 2. Tragedy, tragic drama …   New dictionary of synonyms

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