What is the semantic difference between the two words "undergarment" and "underwear"? I have researched and found out that:

  1. "Undergarment" is used for any type of clothes which one wears beneath, while "underwear" can be only bra, panties and briefs.
  2. "Undergarment" is considered a very old-fashioned word these days.

Please have a look on the following links:



Do you confirm my take on this?

  • 2
    I don't think underwear is as restricted as you say. Boxers are also underwear. Long underwear is also underwear.
    – The Photon
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 19:43

2 Answers 2


Underwear is a general term for the garments you wear next the skin that are not meant to be seen. An undergarment is a single item of underwear.


I agree with what you found. Undergarments is something that grandparents might say, or someone who wants to sound sophisticated (perhaps like a butler or something). Although "underwear" may seem like literally clothing you wear underneath, it has come to refer to clothing that specifically covers breasts and private parts, while undergarment maintains the original meaning.

  • Thank you very much @mirve. Just let me know whether the word underwear can encapsulate some other pieces of clothing like an "undershirt" or e.g some tight pants which elderly people/soldiers or ordinary people in a cole environment wear too.
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 11:39
  • @A-friend in American English, I would not consider those underwear. From context, it could probably be understood, but native speakers probably wouldn't think of those if they heard the word underwear.
    – mirve
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 19:42
  • then what do you call them?
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 20:59
  • What does underwear mean in AmE and which clothing pieces does it encompass?
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 21:01
  • Grandparents? Really? 'The Best Undergarments To Wear With Fall’s Biggest Trends' Forbes Fashion and Beauty September 11 2021 Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 20:02

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