- an ornamental shoulder piece worn on uniforms, chiefly by military officers.
- a piece of ornamental material on the shoulder of a garment, esp a military uniform
1783, from French épaulette (16c.), diminutive of épaule “shoulder,” from Old French espaule (12c.), from Latin spatula “flat piece of wood, splint,” later “shoulder blade,” diminutive of spatha “broad wooden instrument, broad sword,” from Greek spathe “a broad flat sword” (see spade (n.1)).