Fop vs dandy

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Good day to all! :) I was under the impression that the terms fop and dandy were synonyms, but I found a sentence that made me wonder whether maybe there's a difference between them:

Gentlemen of quality, fops, and dandies possessed a great variety of snuff-boxes
(I searched the forums and found this thread but it deals with the feminine equivalent of fop/dandy actually, not the two terms themselves.)

Would you consider these two terms synonyms? If not, what's the difference? I think that perhaps fop is better suited for a dandy from the XVII and XVIII century, while dandy makes me think of the XIX-XX century counterpart, but I am not sure.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome! Thank you in advance
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    One who is foolishly attentive to and vain of his appearance, dress, or manners; a dandy, an exquisite.
    One who studies above everything to dress elegantly and fashionably; a beau, fop, ‘exquisite’.

    The OED definitions don't help to distinguish between them. The usage examples for fop begin about 100 years earlier than those for dandy, supporting silver frog's suggestion.

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Unless you are writing in a historical context where you want to avoid anachronism (which, for example, talking about dandies in the Elizabethan era would be, as dandy in this sense is a term from the late 18th c. onwards), I would say there isn't a difference in meaning. As Panjandrum says, dandy is defined as meaning fop in the OED, so if you wanted to use it in a modern context you might use either to means the same thing. This would be a deliberate use of anachronism, of course, and fop, I would say, is more comical in that respect than dandy. British comedians Reeves and Mortimer popularized the word some time ago in the comic insult "workshy fop" ("Reeves, you workshy fop!").


    New Member
    Actually there was originally a big difference. 'Dandy' is a term credited to Beau Brummell, the 'arbiter alegantiae' of George Prince Regent. He started a fashion for elegant but understated dress (some say he invented, but he in fact popularised trousers and the modern business suit), and he called his followers the 'Body Dandiacal', they had a sort of gang philosophy. Dandies wore cravats, high collars, tail-coats and eventually trousers, and believed in clean clothes and regular bathing. Fops were of the 18th Century, wore wigs, used powder and make-up, wore breeches, and washed less regularly. The two disapproved of one another, not too dissimilar a situation to the 'mods and rockers' of the early 1960s. There were incidents, scuffles etc.. The Dandies prevailed in fashion terms. Though the terms are interchangeable as derogatory handles nowadays, originally they were distinct. We're talking Regency period for all this.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know when "Dandy" was credited to Beau Brummell, but the earliest examples recorded by the OED are dated a little too early for him to have created the term.
    c1780 Sc. Song in N. & Q. 8th Ser. IV. 81), I've heard my granny crack O' sixty twa years back When there were sic a stock of Dandies O; Oh they gaed to Kirk and Fair, Wi' their ribbons round their hair, And their stumpie drugget coats, quite the Dandy O.
    1788 R. Galloway Poems 89 They‥laugh at ilka dandy, At that fair day.​
    It may well have been applied to him, though, and that may have made it a great deal more familiar than before ... outside Scotland :)
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