Name confusion

Initially, fabric was called tweel, it was the name of twill-woven fabric in Scotland. According to the story, which was expounded by the Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII) in his autobiographic book “Windsor Revisited”, the fabric got its name almost accidentally. About the 1830 one merchant from London got a letter from a Scotch town Hawick, where it was said about a fabric tweel. While reading a manuscript, the merchant understood a word incorrectly and decided that it is referred to a trademark which has a name of the river Tweed, which runs in Scotland through a region with developed textile industry. The fabric was advertised like “tweed” and this name assigned to it forever.

According to the Duke, tweed was a favourite fabric of his grandfather Edward VII and his father George V.

Philologist W. Nicolaisen, who concerned himself with the Scottish language, believed, that this “too credible” explanation can be a legend of folk etymology indeed. He marked, that the word “twedlyne” found in papers of the 1541 and the word “tweedling”, by analogy with “twilling”, could be ancestors of the word “tweed”.

Tweed River

According to another version, the fabric was named after the river Tweed. It happened because in that region wool manufacturing including tweed is historically concentrated.

It is supposed, that woollen fabric was identified after the place of manufacture and, gradually, toponym became a common name for beloved tweed. A popular English proverb is connected with the river Tweed: “Annan, Tweed and Clyde rise oot the ae hillside”. It means only, that three rivers begin in the same locality, but it can be said also regarding tweed fabric.

There is a town Berwick-upon-Tweed in the same locality, which is often called just Berwick. This town in the county Northumberland is at the present time the northernmost town in England. Up to now the majority of population of Berwick is occupied with knitted fabric and tweed production.

Maybe, British ethnographists and linguists are still trying to reveal genuine origin of the name, but whatever version is true, we know the fabric, which is also a symbol of the English style, under the name “tweed”. Scientists can argue about it, but we can enjoy comfort and functionality of tweed clothes.


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