I wonder if the words tie and cravat (they translate to the same word in German) are completely interchangeable or if there are some subtle differences to a native speaker.

  • 3
    Google Images would be your friend here. picture == 1k words. Tie / Cravat – gone fishin' again. Feb 5 '15 at 9:10
  • @Tetsujin great idea. Sometimes you just don't come up with such an easy solution ;-) Want to put it in an answer? – André Stannek Feb 5 '15 at 9:29
  • I think Stephie's pretty much nailed it. Just think of a tie as going with a business suit etc, a cravat would be more 'theatrical' - wider, flouncier, open neck as well as closed. – gone fishin' again. Feb 5 '15 at 9:56
  • I've never heard of a cravat before! Although I can see from the pictures that it's different. – hunter Feb 5 '15 at 15:33

Historically both items of clothing originate from a piece of cloth that was wound around a rider's neck. The name stems from Croatian mercenaries. Over time, it became a fashionable item with cravats (and their dozens of ways of tying them) being one symbol of dandyism in the Regency era. This explains why the term "cravat" (-> Krawatte in German) can be found in many languages.

Over time, the cravat - a wider piece of cloth, more resembling a shawl - has "slimmed down" to a small strip of fabric and changed the name in English to "tie", denoting the act of knotting them around the wearer's neck. A special form of tie is a bow-tie. In German, there exists the equivalent term "Binder", but it has never really replaced "Krawatte".

And just for the sake of completeness: In German (and sometimes in English) a cravat could also be called a "Plastron".

  • I would be careful about using the term "plastron", as it's pretty obscure, and also means things like the underside shell of a turtle (which is actually the only sense found in the Encyclopedia Britannica) and a piece of protective gear for fencing. – stangdon Feb 5 '15 at 15:43
  • As the Collins dictionary (collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/…) lists 12 meanings for the noun "tie", I am convinced my fellow readers will also be able to differenciate between a turtle and a piece of cloth. – Stephie Feb 5 '15 at 16:03
  • Yes, I'm just saying it's super-obscure. "Cravat" is more obscure than "tie", and "plastron", particularly when it refers to neckwear, is about a mile more obscure than either of those. – stangdon Feb 5 '15 at 16:14

This is a tie:

enter image description here

It is quite narrow and you can make a small knot in the top.

This man's wearing a cravat:

enter image description here

A cravat is much wider and you can't put a small knot at the top. It is half like a tie and half like a scarf.

Hope this is helpful!

  • It is indeed helpful, thanks! Now it's kind of hard to choose between yours and Stephies answer... – André Stannek Feb 5 '15 at 15:37
  • Glad it was helpful! You can give the green ticky thing to Stephie. Their answer is a good interesting answer! :-) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 5 '15 at 15:40
  • 1
    Thanks for the compliment. I like the simplicity of your answer- probably better in a multi-language setting. I choose to add a bit of background to address OP's native language where tie=Krawatte. – Stephie Feb 5 '15 at 16:13

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