Tuque, a Canadian cap

The word tuque, toque, or touque in the territory of Canada means a cap. Tuque is a winter headwear, which is a knitted cap. This type of cap was a widely popular accessory among Ottawa residents. It has been worn since the 19th century. Find out more at ottawanka.com.

Tuque history 

Like many other words in Canada, the word ‘tuque’ was borrowed from French in the 19th century. Some other European languages also contain a similar word, but they do not all denote a warm cap. In Spanish, the word ‘toca’ referred precisely to a woman’s headdress. In English, ‘toque’ means an ordinary round female hat without a brim.

The main distinguishing feature of the tuque was the long tassel or pompon at the top of the cap. Traditionally, tuque in Ottawa was made of wool. People used to wear it in the cold season. Over the many years of its existence, this winter cap, tuque, has become a very iconic accessory, not only for Ottawa residents but for the residents of Canada as a whole.

Tuque for winter sports

While in the 18th century, the French word ‘tuque’ was used to describe the winter headwear of Ottawa residents, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the tuque has become a veritable and integral attribute in winter sports. In the 21st century, the cap’s association with winter sports in Ottawa has grown inseparable. Some junior hockey clubs in the Canadian capital have organized an annual Teddy Bear & Toque Toss event. It was usually held a couple of weeks before Christmas. This event was in the format of a hockey game. If the team scored a puck during the game, fans threw stuffed animals, tuque and other items onto the ice, which were collected and donated to local charities after the game.

Moreover, some hockey teams began to produce their own tuque. The tuque became something more than an iconic cap throughout Canada but also a part of the sport. For hockey players, such a cap was very suitable. It was very warm and specifically designed for skating on cold rinks or open ponds.

Spelling and pronunciation of the word ‘tuque’

The word ‘tuque’ was borrowed from the French in the distant 19th century. However, in the 21st century, its correct spelling has remained unclear. One of the options is tuque. That one makes phonetic sense. In Ottawa, the English-speaking part of the population pronounces this word as ‘duke’, which translates to duke (noble rank). French-speaking Ottawans pronounce the name of the winter cap as ‘Luc’, which translates to hatch. But still, the majority of the population says tuque to the historical cap. That said, the word ‘tuque’ refers not only to a winter cap with a tassel and pompon but also to a small woman’s bonnet and chef’s hat, which are sometimes called the same. 

You won’t find the word ‘tuque’ in the Canadian dictionary. The term was assimilated from French in 1870.

According to one version, the fashion for such caps originated with the so-called forest runners, French fur traders. They always wore woolen caps to keep their heads warm in the bitterly cold winters. There were similar caps in other countries, but they had different names. When the fashion for such a cap reached Canada, it became a genuine fashion accessory. In particular, the residents of Ottawa and some other northern cities of the country adore it. During the cold season, Ottawans wear a tuque like in the olden days and do not take it off even indoors.

A tuque in Ottawa is an extremely popular thing. Practically every resident of the city has such a cap. Ottawans wear it all year round. They use it in cold weather as headgear to keep warm and at any other time as an accessory, including wearing it indoors at any time of the year.

Also, a tuque is used in Ottawa to promote and advertise various memorabilia. Notably, a tuque is very common among hockey teams and is used as a souvenir and for other things. Over the years, a tuque has become a veritable symbol for cold regions like Ottawa.