IATE Term of the Week: Maillot

July 11, 2014 11:20 am

cycleA new edition of the Tour de France begun last Saturday and it will keep around 200 men pedalling across France and some parts of the United Kingdom until the end of the month; when the fastest one will cross the Champs Élysées in Paris to become the winner of the 101th edition of the race. This year, the Tour will have 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,664 kilometres, with only two rest days.

For this reason, this week’s IATE Term of the Week is the widely employed French term maillot, or the coloured tight-fitting tops cyclists are awarded with at the end of each stage. Maillots are not given randomly though, each colour has a meaning and it is related to the particular success of the sportsmen. The cyclists that win the maillots wear them on the next day of the race.

Le maillot jaune or the yellow jersey is awarded to the leader or the general winner, the one who completed the stage in the shortest time. Apparently, the winner of the first edition of the Tour did not wear a yellow maillot, but a green armband instead; and it was only in 1919 when the winner first wore a jaune maillot. Also, yellow was the colour of the pages of the sports newspaper L’Auto, the organiser of the competition.

Le maillot vert, or the green top, is given to the best sprinter, that is, the cyclist that gets more points in a stage. The jersey was awarded for the first time in 1953, when the current points system was implemented. The choice of the colour sends us again to one of the sponsors of the period, La Belle Jardinière, a big Parisian fashion shop.

The polka-dot jersey or le maillot blanc à pois rouges is, since 1975, reserved for the best climber in the mountainous stages of the Tour. The red dots come from another sponsor: Chocolat Poulain. Finally, the white jersey or le maillot blanc is for the best rider under 25.

Now that we know a little bit more about this cycling curiosity, we might become more interested in the sport. Should you need a wider vocabulary on the field, have a look to the cycling glossaries we found:

List of dictionaries and glossaries
Vocabulaire Panlatin du Vélo
BBC Ma France vocabulary
Le Vélo-Dictionnaire Français/Anglais


iate maillot


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‘Tour de France Jerseys and Their Meaning’

‘Tour de France: à quoi correspondent les maillots jaune, vert et à pois?’

‘Un Maillot pour Trophée’

Official website of the Tour de France



By Jurdana Martin Retegi
Student of MA Learning & Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts
University of Luxembourg
Study visitor at TermCoord

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