Definition of diaper in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdʌɪəpə/


1North American A baby’s nappy.
Example sentences
  • In the West, however, babies wear nappies or diapers until they learn to use a pot.
  • After their second child was born in 1987, she would work days as a medical clerk for the Army and come home at night to two babies in diapers - and often no husband.
  • The proposed welfare cuts, according to Vivian Hain, ‘will take the shirts off our backs and the diapers off our babies.’
2 [mass noun] A linen or cotton fabric woven in a repeating pattern of small diamonds.
Example sentences
  • Did you know that the word diaper is the name of the type of linen used to make what was then called a napkin or clout for a baby?
2.1A repeating geometrical or floral pattern used to decorate a surface.
Example sentences
  • The gods and goddesses are overlarge for the spaces they occupy and rest somewhat uncertainly on plinths made up of diaper pattern.
  • The college buildings, of red brick with blue diaper patterning, are grouped around two courtyards.
  • Its decoration consists of incised lines forming a diaper pattern, interspersed with a punched design of tiny triangular forms arranged like the petals of a flower.


[with object]
1North American Put a nappy on (a baby).
Example sentences
  • Washing, drying, and salting the chicken felt strangely like bathing and diapering a baby - a very cold, lethargic baby with loose, pinkly skin and floppy limbs.
  • We would think a family who used disposable plates and bowls for every meal was wasteful, but we don't think twice about diapering our babies in the same fashion.
  • Is it really going to be the manly thing to be standing on the subway reading about how to diaper your baby?
2Decorate (a surface) with a repeating geometrical or floral pattern.
Example sentences
  • The dating of the border, with its pale blue relief diapering, is interesting, since it indicates when this variation of the famille verte genre was popular.


Middle English: from Old French diapre, from medieval Latin diasprum, from medieval Greek diaspros (adjective), from dia 'across' + aspros 'white'. The term seems originally to have denoted a costly fabric, but after the 15th century it was used as in sense 2 of the noun; babies' nappies were originally made from pieces of this fabric, hence sense 1 of the noun (late 16th century).

  • In the USA babies wear diapers not nappies as in England. This is because the pads were originally made of diaper, a linen or cotton fabric woven in a repeating pattern of small diamonds. Napkins, towels, and cloths could also be diapers in Britain from the late 16th century, but napkin ( see apron) came to predominate in babywear. Before the 15th century diaper appears to have been a costly fabric of silk woven with gold thread. The original elements of the word are Greek dia- ‘through, across’ and aspros ‘white’, the overall sense being either ‘white at intervals’ or ‘pure white’.

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