Posted by: Jack Henry | May 29, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Aiguillettes, shoe laces, and a white rabbit

I’m not sure where I heard or saw the word aiguillette, but a few days after I looked it up, one of you intelligent readers sent me an email mentioning the term. Today, I decided to follow the white rabbit through the dictionary and etymology rabbit holes and see where I’d end up. Here is the tale of my trail, with Merriam-Webster at my side.


noun ai·guil·lette ˌā-gwi-ˈlet

specifically: a shoulder cord worn by designated military aides

mid-16th century: from French, literally ‘small needle,’ diminutive of aiguille.

Apparently, there is some kind of meat also referred to as an aiguillette, or else there are some crazy people posting photos and mismarking them. I saw cows, sausages, bird-like meat…honestly, I’m not sure what was going on. Anyway, here is a photo of the military shoulder cord, with the “small needles” at the very end.


noun ag·let ˈa-glət

1: the plain or ornamental tag covering the ends of a lace or point

2: any of various ornamental studs, cords, or pins worn on clothing

The English word aglet is from the French word aiguillette (above). These not-so-ornamental laces should look familiar to you. This, at the end of the shoe lace, is what we refer to as an aglet:


noun four·ra·gère ˌfu̇r-ə-ˈzher

:a braided cord worn usually around the left shoulder; especially : such a cord awarded as a decoration to a military unit

Most of the fourragères look similar to the aiguillettes, but the majority of the photos were of a single cord and a less fancy look. Wikipedia provides this information:

“As a regimental distinction the fourragère should not be confused with the aiguillette (distinctive insignia of the aide-de-camp) which was introduced by Napoleon I and which it closely resembles (the aiguillette is merely a golden fourragère).”

And this is where the bunny and I gave up and got back to editing!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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