MANTLE, a long flowing cloak without sleeves, worn by either sex. Particularly applied to the long robe worn over the armour by the men-at-arms of the middle ages, the name is still given to the robes of state of kings, peers, and the members of an order of knights. Thus the " electoral mantle " was a robe of office worn by the imperial electors, and the Teutonic knights were known as the orde alborum mantellorum from their white mantles. As an article of women's dress a mantle now means a loose cloak or cape, of any length, and made of silk, velvet, or other rich material. The word is derived from the Latin mantellum or mantdum, a cloak, and is probably the same as, or another form of, mantelium or mantele, a tablenapkin or table-cloth, from manus, hand, and tela, a cloth. A late Latin mantum, from which several Romance languages have taken words (cf. Ital. manto, and Fr. mottle), must, as the New English Dictionary points out, be a " back- formation," and this will explain the diminutive form of the Spanish mantilla. From the old French mantel came the English compounds " mantel-piece," " mantel-shelf," for the stone or wood beam which serves as a support for the structure above a fire-place, together with the whole framework, whether of wood, stone, etc., that acts as an ornament of the same (see CHIMNEYPIECE). The modern French form manteau is used in English chiefly as a dressmaker's term for a woman's mantle. " Mantua," much used in the 18th century for a similar garment, is probably a corruption of manleau, due to silk or other materials coming from the Italian town of that name, and known by the trade name of " mantuas." The Spanish mantilla is a covering for the head and shoulders of white or black lace or other material, the characteristic head-dress of women in southern and central Spain. It is occasionally seen in the other parts of Spain and Spanish countries, and also in Portugal.
" Mantle " is used in many transferred senses, all with the meaning of " covering," as in zoology, for an enclosing sac or integument; thus it is applied to the " tunic " or layer of connective-tissue forming the body-wall of ascidians enclosing muscle-fibres, blood-sinuses and nerves (see TUNICATA). The term is also used for a meshed cap of refractory oxides employed in systems of incandescent lighting (see LIGHTING). The verb is used for the creaming or frothing of liquids and of the suffusing of the skin with blood. In heraldry " mantling," also known as " panache," " lambrequin " or " contoise," is an ornamental appendage to an escutcheon, of flowing drapery, forming a background (see HERALDRY).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)