Word Confusion: windbreaker versus Windbreaker

Posted April 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 23 February 2018

Seeing the word Windbreaker used to describe a windbreaker has been driving me nuts for ages, and why it took me this long to research it, I don’t know. It finally kicked me over the edge this afternoon, and I went exploring. Turns out that Windbreaker was a trade name for a special type of jacket that acts as a wind breaker 1. Who knew? Not me obviously.

Writers can use the uppercase Windbreaker to particularly mean “a jacket of any material except leather with close-fitting elastic hip band and cuffs” whereas a lowercase windbreaker is simply a jacket for outerwear that keeps the wind from getting through to a person’s body. I’ve always envisioned a windbreaker as a thin jacket of wind- and/or water-proof material that may or may not be lined that hits around the hip and has elasticized cuffs and either snaps or a zipper as a closure.

However, since the trademark has expired for Windbreaker AND the term has become a generic reference for this type of jacket, you can also use its lowercase spelling.

Do be aware that using a trademark name, such as Windbreaker, is sending a message. That it is a brand currently available. I know, this is in direct contradiction to how most product names are handled. Those product names are still trademarked and are produced by companies that are still in business and do involve a mess of rules on how to treat current brand names (see Capitalization for a quick look at those requirements).

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

windbreaker Windbreaker
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com; Wikipedia;

A red quilted ski jacket

“Anorak” is sand’s own work and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Even if it’s downfilled, it’s still a windbreaker.

Hooded Windbreaker

“Windbreaker Jacket with Hood Outside” is Uploader’s own work and in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Part of Grammar:
Noun Noun
Common term in North America & Japan

Type of jacket of synthetic material to keep off the wind and resist light rain (originally a kind of leather shirt)

[British, the Commonwealth, & India] Windcheater

A pullover anorak

A glossy synthetic material used to make clothing

A trademark (that has expired), a brand name for a jacket of wind-resistant material with close-fitting elastic hip band and cuffs (originally a gabardine jacket)
We’d better wear our windbreakers for the hike.

Most jackets with a college logo are windbreakers.

When he left the house, he was wearing his windcheater, so he should be dry.

I was grateful I’d picked up my Windbreaker before I left the house.
History of the Word:
First known use: 1918

A blend created from wind + break, a verb-turned-noun.

1 This trademark expired Nov 3, 1992.

“July 05, 1947, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for Windbreaker by John Rissman & Son, Chicago. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has given the WINDBREAKER trademark serial number of 71527340. The current federal status of this trademark filing is expired. … The Windbreaker trademark is filed in the category of Transportation & Storage Services. The description provided to the USPTO for Windbreaker is jackets, coats, blouses, and shirts for men, women, boys, and girls, made of any kind of material excepting leather” (LegalForce, Trademarkia).

Return to top

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Kathy's KD Did It signature