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When searching for "swimsuit", I often see just 1 type that looks like this

enter image description here

But my daughter has a pair of pants and a top designed for swimming like this

enter image description here

Do we say "My daughter is wearing a swimsuit"?

Also, when a man goes swimming, he might just wear a pair of shorts designed for swimming that looks like this

enter image description here

It's quite tight and it is made of special cloth.

Do we say "The man is wearing a swimsuit"?

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    @Lambie I've never heard "swim briefs" in my life and "speedos" means something with substantially less cloth. It kinda sounds like you just have beef. This could easily be rephrased to "Are all these called 'swimsuits'?" Commented May 3, 2023 at 3:25
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    @Lambie "speedo" is a brand name. It's like in the UK we still say "Hoover the floor". Speedo also do trunks and jammers as well as swimming shorts. The man in the picture is not wearing underwear, it's an item specifically designed for swimming (string-tie, stretchy material, additional inner layer).
    – fdomn-m
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 10:38
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    There's even (@Lambie) a Speedo logo on those swimming trunks (UK term perhaps); they're definitely not underwear. "Briefs" can be used in the context of swimwear but only to be extra-specific for something smaller, when specifying that they're trunks and not shorts is insufficient
    – Chris H
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 12:14
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    @Lambie Anecdotal evidence is quite relevant to descriptivist linguistics. People didn't claim they "don't know about" - they probably agreed they never hear it. You can discredit the upvotes because they didn't arrive at your conclusion via google, but the only problem I see is that feedback by people disagreeing is not equally represented. Yes, research-backed quantitative analysis would be better ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but the votes are meaningful in their own right.
    – sehe
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 15:09
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    @AzorAhai-him- no, he wears speedos, just like trousers or pants
    – Chris H
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 5:50

7 Answers 7

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I grew up in Colorado and lived in Texas.

Yes, for your pictures I would say "That woman is wearing a swimsuit", "My daughter is wearing a swimsuit", "The man is wearing a swimsuit".

In normal general discussion I use 'swimsuit' to refer to all types of swimming clothing regardless of gender, type, or number of pieces.

  • "Kids, get your swimsuits on." --Could be single piece or multiple, long or short sleeves
  • "Sir, is this your swimsuit?" --Could be trunks or briefs
  • "Honey, I'll hold your purse while you shop for a new swimsuit." --Could be a one-piece or bikini or whatever

When asked for specifics I would use other terms:

  • "What type of swimsuit is he wearing?" "He's wearing a Speedo."
  • "What swimsuit do you want to pack?" "Bring my swim trunks."

Note:

Wetsuits and drysuits are not 'typical' 'recreational' swimwear and I would not refer to them as swimsuits.

"Is he wearing a normal swimsuit to go diving?" "No, it's really cold and he brought his wetsuit."

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    "Swimsuit" is good when you want to refer vaguely to swimming clothing, but "A Speedo" doesn't travel well ("Speedos" or even "a pair of Speedos" elsewhere). And I agree on the wetsuit distinction - I sometimes swim in a wetsuit, or wetsuit shorts, which aren't described as swimsuits or even swimwear. Drysuits aren't worn for swimming as an activity, though they are worn for activities that involve swimming (diving, or in my case kayaking)
    – Chris H
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 12:20
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    @Lambie Your comment could be worth something if included any kind of a hint why you think this answer misrepresents how people actually speak. Have you also lived in Colorado and Texas? Why do you know better how people there speak?
    – JiK
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 13:31
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    @Lambie Midwest US here. I definitely might say, "Hey, did you bring your swimsuit?" to a buddy of mine. I might also say "Did you bring your swim trunks/swimming trunks/bathing suit?" These all sound equally normal to me, but I think I'm most likely to say the first one these days because I like how it sounds better. When I was a kid, we often said "swimming trunks," "swimming suit," or "bathing suit," but I think I avoid these now because I have the perception that they sound kind of kiddish or hillbilly. Commented May 3, 2023 at 14:08
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    @WaterMolecule For me, swimsuit is a retailer's term or a term used by swimming organizations. I personally would not use it in conversation with a friend, male or female.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 14:40
  • @Lambie I kinda agree, to me swimsuits are exclusively the more elaborate full-body - mostly female - swimwear. However, I don't think "Hey, bro, did you bring your swimsuit" can be compared to "Everyone here is wearing a swimsuit". The context is very different.
    – sehe
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 15:13
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For me, a Canadian, the word "swimsuit" can cover anything designed to be worn while swimming, including bikinis, swim trunks and single-piece suits for women. It would also include the type of gear your daughter has.

That said, "swimsuit" is more often used specifically to mean a single-piece suit for women like the top one pictured, so if I were talking to a group of mixed ages and genders, I would say, "Let's get our swimming clothes on".

To Canadians -- and I suspect Americans -- the term "swimming costume" sounds outdated, and we would only use it to refer to the full body suits men stopped wearing about 100 years ago:

enter image description here

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    The UK would abbreviate it to 'cozzy' or 'cozzies' informally, for any generic type of swimwear. Commented May 2, 2023 at 15:37
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    To this American, swimsuit is a very generic word applied to anything you wear specifically for swimming. Two piece, one piece, male, female, spandex, denim, it makes no difference. Of course there are more specific classifications - swim trunks, bikini, etc. which will also be used.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 18:49
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    @EllieK Denim makes for very poor swimwear, but otherwise I agree.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 20:55
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    @alphabet I find ‘swimming clothes’ rather clunky as well. A more natural generic term to me (besides swimsuit) would be swimwear or swimming gear (though that would also include goggles, swimming cap and various other accoutrements that aren’t actually clothing as such). Commented May 3, 2023 at 1:59
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    @Tom Believe it or not, that's how men used to dress when they went swimming in Canada and the States (and probably elsewhere too) about 100 years ago. For a man to show his bare chest in public was considered immodest.
    – gotube
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 3:51
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Merriam-Webster and Cambridge Dictionary define swimsuit as a suit/piece of clothing for swimming or bathing. Collins Dictionary suggests that it is

A swimsuit is a piece of clothing that is worn for swimming, especially by women and girls

I'd be inclined to agree with Cambridge and Collins, who both say that a swimsuit is a [single] piece of clothing.

As the clothing in the second picture is not a single piece, I would call it a full swimming costume, where full indicates that it covers the legs an arms.

For the man, I wouldn't call it a swimsuit: I agree with Collins that a swimsuit is a term used for women's swimwear, so I would call it/them [swimming] trunks or swimming shorts, or a swimming costume.

Note that in Australia they use the word bathers to refer to any kind of swimwear.

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    in the UK we use the word 'speedos' for any male swimwear that is smaller & tighter than is truly wise ;) Commented May 2, 2023 at 15:14
  • @DoneWithThis. Sure, speedos. That is what pro swimmers wear when competing. They are meant to be tight.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 16:39
  • Sure we know what they are... 'competition swimwear' but the name, as a derogatory term came to mean too small, too tight. For 20+ years no-one outside competition would actually buy from that manufacturer if even the name tag was big enough to be readable. They shrunk the name & grew the fit and leg length to avoid the stigma. Commented May 2, 2023 at 16:58
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    @DoneWithThis. In Oz they are called budgy smugglers. Go figure.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 4:27
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    "Cambridge and Collins, who both say that a swimsuit is a single piece of clothing", but they don;t quite say that - "single" is your addition, and excluding two-piece women's swimsuits seems odd.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 12:21
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I (west coast of the U.S.) would personally call both the woman’s and the man’s swimwear a “swimsuit.” I might also call the man’s, “swim trunks.”

I probably wouldn’t call the girl’s swimwear a “swimsuit,” although I don’t think that’s an error. It reminds me of an old-fashioned “bathing suit” or a modern “wetsuit,” although it isn’t either of those.

I would also call a two-piece bikini a “swimsuit.” Thinking about it, I’d also call a matching pair of briefs and a tank top a “swimsuit” on a woman, but not a man. I’m not sure why, but I seem to think of a woman’s two-piece swimsuit as a single garment.

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  • Yeah, the girl's clothes are so covering they don't look like they're meant for swimming and thus I would hesitate to call them a swimsuit. Commented May 5, 2023 at 2:42
  • @LorenPechtel Yeah, that style of swimwear is not common in this country. So I’m not used to it. But it could well be in others.
    – Davislor
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 6:02
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To give a UK perspective:

Calling trunks a "swimsuit" would be weird, although not strictly incorrect.

A "swimsuit" is typically a onepiece that covers the genitals and chest (at a minimum). I think the clue here is the "suit" part of the word, trunks alone would be half of a suit.

If you want a generic term, I'd go with "swimwear".

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Some Australian states have one word for all types of clothing worn while swimming: swimmers.

I just need to get me swimmers on Dad.

It applies to any type of clothing meant for swimming for anyone, even cats.

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  • Australia has multiple such words. “swimmers” is pretty common in NSW, but “bathers” is more common elsewhere.
    – Ben Murphy
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 3:19
  • Thanks for pointing that out Ben; I've slightly modified my answer to be a little more correct. Commented May 8, 2023 at 10:53
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My daughter is wearing a full-body, two-piece swimsuit.

[These are usually worn as protection against the sun AKA rash guards]

full-body two-piece swimsuit or swimwear, for the little girl

In the US. A retailer would use swimsuit for both sexes. An older person might say swimsuit for both sexes. An event organizer also. Young/er people say bathing suit (for both sexes), board shorts (for men/boys, longer trunks), trunks, swim trunks. Girls say bathing suit for what they wear (a one-piece, two-piece, tankini or bikini)/

But a young guy would not use swimsuit in speaking to another young guy.

Yesterday, after answering this question, I went to a local pizzeria (Northeast US) where I saw a group of young ladies (14 to 16). I asked them: Can you imagine one young guy saying to another: Hey, dude, did you bring your swimsuit? They all laughed and said NO very loud.

enter image description here

No, the word swimsuit is not used for men except generically on a website or in retailing or event organizing. Speech between men would not usually contain the word swimsuit in conversation. Swim trunks or swimming trunks or even board shorts are more accurate in every day conversation.

Swim briefs are "European look" swimwear or racing briefs. Apparently, these briefs are making a comeback. For a number of years (in the U.S. at least), men's swim trunks became long-ish shorts.

He is wearing a speedo or swim briefs.

This answer is not a treatise on swimwear terminology. It seeks to answer the specific questions from the OP.

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    Just to show there's a lot of variation in these things, I grew up in California and I have no problem with "swimsuit" referring to men's swimwear, and probably use it more frequently than "swim trunks".
    – The Photon
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 16:06
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    Then why are there examples of people (me) who think that swimsuit applies equally to mens swimwear as to women's? Am I more commercial than you? Or do I just come from a different place?
    – The Photon
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 17:02
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    I'm not young, but I'm not particularly old, and I'm not a lady. Are you really denying that other people in other places or socio-economic circumstances might use some words differently than you do?
    – The Photon
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 17:24
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    I'm with ThePhoton here, though I grew up on the opposite coast (Maryland); don't find it unusual to use "swimsuit" to refer to either male or female swimming attire (in any number of pieces.) Given the 4 conflicting answers to this question, I think it's safe to say that there's a lot of variation and nuance to be found in this terminology. Commented May 2, 2023 at 20:08
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    You said "I would not ask some random guy if he brought his swimsuit". I would. My younger brother would; he's 25. Is that a "young" guy? I don't know. Commented May 2, 2023 at 20:22

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