AskDefine | Define galoshes

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /ɡəˈlɒʃɪz/, /g@"lQSIz/


galoshes plural
  1. Plural of galosh
  2. A type of rubber boots slipped over shoes to keep them from getting muddy or wet.
  3. Waterproof rubber boots, intended to be worn in wet or muddy conditions.


Extensive Definition

Galoshes (from lang-fr galoches), also known as gumshoes, dickersons, or overshoes, are a type of rubber boot that is slipped over shoes to keep them from getting muddy or wet. The word Galoshes might be used interchangeably with boot, especially a rubberized boot. Properly speaking, however, a galosh is an overshoe made of a weatherproof material to protect a more vulnerable shoe underneath and keep the foot warm and dry.


The term may trace back to the Middle Ages, from the Gaulish shoe or gallicae. This shoe had a leather upper and a sole carved of wood. When the Romans conquered Gaul (France), they borrowed the Gaulish boot style. Nobles would wear a red leather boot with ornately carved wooden soles to display their station.
The term originally referred to wooden shoes or patten, or merely a wooden sole fastened to the foot by a strap or cord. Pattens were overshoes with tall, shaped wooden bases and mules or slippers into which one could slip their indoor shoes. In this respect, they could be considered similar to galoshes.
"Goloshes" appears to be the older spelling of Galoshes used previously in Great Britain. The spelling perhaps changed around 1920 to the present day spelling. A discussion took place in November 2007 on the Victoria Web Discussion group.


In modern usage, it is an outer shoe worn in inclement weather to protect the inner one, and keep the feet dry. Galoshes are now almost universally made of rubber, and in the United States they are often known as "rubbers." In the bootmakers' trade, a "galosh" is the piece of leather, of a make stronger than, or different from that of the "uppers", which runs around the bottom part of a boot or shoe, just above the sole.
The transition from a traditional wooden sole to one of vulcanized rubber may be attributed to Charles Goodyear. The qualities of rubber, though fascinating to Goodyear, were highly dependent on temperature, tacky when hot, brittle when cold. Vulcanization of rubber tempered its properties so that it was easily molded, durable, and tough. A rubberized elastic webbing made Goodyear's galoshes (circa 1890) easy to pull on and off.
An unconfirmed legend states that an Englishman named Radley invented galoshes. He suffered from rheumatism and wanted to keep his feet dry. While reading De Bello Gallico by Julius Caesar he noticed a description of protective cloth overshoes "gallicae" and decided to capitalize on the idea. He patented cloth overshoes reinforced with rubber to keep the feet dry.
There are also records of a black inventor by the name of Alvin Longo Rickman, who received a patent for an overshoe in 1898.
There are two basic types. One is like an oversize shoe or low boot, made of thick rubber with a heavy sole and instep, designed for heavy-duty use. The other is of much thinner, more flexible material, more like a rubber slipper, designed solely for protection against the wet rather than for extensive walking.
In Russia, galoshes have been an indispensable attribute of valenki.
In the upper U.S. Midwest, school children know the black rubber, over-the-shoe boot as "four-buckle arctics".

Galoshes in media

  • Gummo Marx, the fifth of the Marx brothers, who quit the act during the family's vaudeville days and thus never appeared in a Marx brothers film, was nicknamed by Art Fisher based on his habit of always wearing gumshoes. While all the other performers wore street shoes, and thus made a loud noise when they walked on a hardwood stage, Milton (Gummo) was known for startling people by appearing suddenly from out of nowhere, because the gumshoes on his feet gave him a nearly soundless footfall.


  • Lawlor, Laurie. Where Will This Shoe Take You? A Walk Through the History of Footwear. New York: Walker and Company, 1996.
  • Moilliet, J. L., ed. Waterproofing and Water-Repellency. London: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1963.
  • O'Keefe, Linda. Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers, & More. New York: Workman Publishing, 1996.
  • Yue, Charlotte and David. Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.* Canizares, George. "Galosh Revolution." US Airways Attache (December 1998): 30.
galoshes in German: Galoschen
galoshes in Russian: Калоши (обувь)
galoshes in Swedish: Galosch
galoshes in Portuguese: Galocha
galoshes in Polish: Kalosz
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