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noun [plural]

leggings (= trousers worn by women that stretch and fit very closely to their legs) that look similar to jeans

'Dozens of students were kicked out of class on the first day of term – for wearing jeggings. Furious parents have condemned Samuel Ward College in Haverhill, Suffolk, for its "draconian" ban on the fashion item. Jeggings are denim-style leggings made popular by celebs including Paris Hilton and Fearne Cotton.'

The Sun 9th September 2010

These days, women who hit the high street looking for a pair of trousers are bombarded with a dazzling array of options. Will they be cropped or full-length, loose linen or tight denim, 'low-rise' or on the waist, boot-cut or straight, classic slacks or informal jeans, leggings or … jeggings?

love them or hate them – it looks like jeggings aren't going to disappear quite yet

In the fickle world of fashion, leggings, those soft, tight-fitting trousers commonly worn with long T-shirts or sweaters, have had more than one wave of popularity in the last couple of decades – and yes, I was one of those people wearing them the first time round! Twenty years on, and they've made a definite come-back, but in true 21st century style, the range of options is bigger and better. Those of us who like the comfort and convenient stretchiness of the classic legging, but still prefer the look and feel of our beloved old denim, can now have the best of both worlds. Enter jeggingsleggings designed to look like tight-fitting jeans.

First appearing in early 2009, jeggings initially met with mixed reactions, some critics thinking that the faux zip flies and pockets on certain styles looked rather naff. However, fuelled by their popularity among young celebrities, notably singer Beyoncé and UK TV presenter Fearne Cotton, jeggings have become one of the hottest clothing items of 2010, and that peculiar blend of denim and Lycra is now a high-profile option in the majority of high street fashion stores. Love them or hate them – it looks like jeggings aren't going to disappear quite yet.

Background – jeggings

The term jeggings is a blend of the words jeans and leggings. Though leggings may seem like a modern invention, the concept of this kind of leg covering goes right back to the 14th century, when they were worn by men and often described as hose, breeches or even stockings. The word legging itself isn't a newcomer either, dating back to 1763 as a reference to an 'extra outer covering to protect the leg'.

Jeggings is not the only neologism based on the word leggings. Other recent blends include meggings (men/male + leggings), very tight jersey trousers for men, and treggings (trousers + leggings), leggings which have the look and styling of trousers. None of these new words have made it into printed dictionaries yet, but they reflect a recent trend within the fashion industry of inventing new descriptions by blending words referring to familiar, conventional garments. Other contemporary examples include coatigan, a blend of coat and cardigan referring to a long woollen jacket which can be worn in place of a coat; shacket, a blend of shirt and jacket referring to a jacket with the appearance and style of a shirt; and skort(s), a blend of skirt and shorts describing baggy shorts which resemble a skirt when worn. If you'd like to see some further examples, check out this online guide recently published by the UK retailer Debenhams. Though many of these new terms are likely to be ephemeral, there's always the potential for one or two to stick, such as for example the word tankini (a blend of tank top and bikini describing a style of women's swimsuit) which has now earned a place in several mainstream dictionaries.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 4th October 2010.

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