Forget fireworks: Nothing says “Fourth of July” like bunting. Gazebos and porches, ready your railings for some…cloths for sifting flour?

Light your sparklers. "Flour." Doodle by @andrescalo.
Light your sparklers. “Flour.” Felt-tip on lined paper. Doodle by @andrescalo.


The OED first cites bunting in 1742 in a naval context, naming the worsted cloth used to make flags. Now, bunting can name an individual flag and flags more generally. I tend to associate bunting with the semi-circular flags displayed during the US’s Independence Day.

So, why buntingThe origin is unknown, but many have conjectured that it derives from a dialectical form of bunt, “to sift meal.” Another term for this is bolt, as in a bolting-cloth whose mesh weave served as a sieve for flour–and, apparently, as a fabric for flags.

In addition to flour, your kitchen may house a tammy cloth, which some think derives from the French étamine, a “bolting-cloth” and “bunting.” This word, related to stamen, has by analogy inspired the aforementioned derivation of bunting, though the OED doubts that it makes it through the sieve, so to speak.

Instead, we might not look to the material of bunting but its pattern, such as the red, white, and blue of the US’s patriotic banners. German has bunt and Dutch bount for “parti-coloured,” the OED notes

As for bunt? It may be a form of bolt (or boult), “to sift,” which might be related to the word bureau, originally named for a dark woolen cloth, later the desk on which it was laid. Ernest Klein, however, takes bunt back to the Latin bonus (sifted through *bonitare, “to make good,” which was then filtered through Old French).

Amber waves of grain? Federal bureaucracy? The good that comes with any public holiday? Whatever its origin, the etymology of bunting has got America covered on July 4th.

Flour_scribblesm ∫ r ∫


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