Aglet or ferrule?

06 Oct

DictionariesThis is a cheeky one. Of course you all know the difference between these two lovely words. But I like them, and it’s my blog, and you never know who might look things up (even “mandrel or mandrill” is quite popular).

An aglet is the little tube that you find on the end of your shoelaces, usually made of plastic but sometimes of metal. Sweetly, it apparently comes from the French for “little needle”, even though it doesn’t really look like or act like a needle in itself, but is used to help you thread the lace through the holes.

A ferrule is the little plastic or rubber cap that sits on the end of a walking stick or umbrella and prevents it from getting damaged.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


Tags: , , ,

10 responses to “Aglet or ferrule?

  1. Antonio Tejada

    October 28, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    I don’t think this one is correct. Ferrules are rings that hold — for example, the metal band on a pencil that attaches the eraser is a ferrule. (Same for the bristles on a brush.) I think it’s far more accurate to say that an aglet is a very specific type of ferrule. The ferrule on an umbrella performs this holding function as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter

      October 30, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Thank you for your addition to the piece, yes, I’d agree with you on that.


    • Doctor Tronik

      December 4, 2017 at 10:36 am

      I got to this blog post by Googling “is an aglet a type of ferrule” because… because I thought maybe it was and I wondered if other people thought so too. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one.


      • Liz Dexter

        December 4, 2017 at 10:37 am

        I get a lot of hits on these kinds of posts from Google – I am usually responding to a need but the need expands and I learn how many people look for this stuff!


  2. geraldlivings

    August 4, 2017 at 3:36 am

    I would normally say that a ferrule and an aiglet, while similar, and related, were not the same thing.
    But of course history has to prove me wrong!
    I would say a ferrule is an item that forms a ring, with both ends open, to hold, crimp or contain something.
    Paintbrushes are the best example.
    While aiglets for the most part, have the terminating end closed. Now for the vast majority of aiglets, I would be correct. But look at this picture.
    “THREE MEN WITH A WOMAN HOLDING A CAT” Attributed to Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo. The man on the far right.has aiglets that, for want of a better definition, are more accurately described as ferrules. The aiglets seen in this picture are all riveted, and the ones worn by the gentleman on the left might be type 1 aiglets, but are most likely type 2 aiglets. Those were the most popular type in the later 16th century.
    The aiglets on the gentleman on the right, I would say those are either type 2 or type 3 aiglets. It is unclear from the painting, as it may have been based on an earlier work by another painter, how accurate the design of the aiglets might be. They appear to have roped edges, which would make them most likely type 2. But not knowing what the original painting this copied, it is hard to say. But what is clear in the cartoon of this drawing is that the cord did extend out of the end of the aiglet. And making these have more of an appearance of ferrules.
    And yes. I know way too much about aiglets!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter

      August 4, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Goodness, that’s a very detailed comment indeed. Thank you for taking the time to post it!


  3. geraldlivings

    December 12, 2017 at 5:02 am

    Liz, I hope this is ok but as there seems to be an interest, this might help. I have a lot of information and research about aiglets on my website. I am currently working on turning this into a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter

      December 12, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Goodness, who’d have thought this simple post would have brought so much depth in the comments! Thank you for your contribution!



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