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Cape vs. Cloak: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 4, 2023
Cape is a sleeveless garment hanging from the neck, while a cloak is a loose, sleeveless garment often enclosing the body.

Key Differences

Cape and cloak both have their unique presence in the realms of apparel, but they serve distinctly different purposes. A cape is a sleeveless piece of cloth that primarily hangs from the neck. In contrast, a cloak also, generally sleeveless, is a more encompassing garment, often designed to cover the wearer substantially, providing more coverage and often having the ability to close or be secured in the front.
Spotting a superhero, one often sees them adorned in a cape, an accessory that cascades down their back, symbolizing prowess and style. A cloak, enveloping and mysterious, often is attributed to wizards, conjuring an air of mystique and secrecy, offering a comprehensive cover that shrouds the wearer in its ample fabric.
When discussing formal wear, a cape often becomes an elegant accessory, lightly draped over the shoulders, adding a dash of sophistication without obscuring the outfit beneath. The cloak, conversely, makes a bolder statement, typically serving to envelop the wearer, becoming the outfit’s focal point and providing a sense of mystery or protection against the elements.
In fantasy realms, a cape is often the attire of the valiant, fluttering gallantly in the wind as they embark on adventures. In a similar vein, a cloak can imbue a sense of magic and concealment, offering the wearer a way to navigate their fantastical world under a guise of secrecy, sometimes armed with enchantments of invisibility or protection.
The aesthetic of a cape often lends itself to a feeling of elevation, luxury, and is frequently seen on regal figures. The cloak, with its all-encompassing nature, tends to be attributed to journeys, adventures, and environments where protection or concealment from elements or prying eyes is paramount.

Comparison Chart


Typically sleeveless


Can be short or long
Usually long


Open, no closure
Can be open or closed


More decorative


Superheroes, elegance
Wizards, mystery

Cape and Cloak Definitions


A pointed piece extending between a gap.
The cape of the anvil was finely pointed.


Something that conceals or hides.
His kindness served as a cloak for his deceit.


A sleeveless garment that may only cover the back.
The superhero’s cape billowed in the wind.


A protective covering or screen.
The forest acted as a cloak, hiding the castle.


A sleeveless outer garment fastened at the throat and worn hanging over the shoulders.


A loose outer garment that is sleeveless or with sleeves.
The wizard wore a cloak adorned with stars.


A brightly colored cloth used in maneuvering the bull in a bullfight; a capote or muleta.


A long, loose outer garment, usually having a hood and no sleeves.


A point or head of land projecting into a body of water.


Something that covers or conceals
A cloak of secrecy.


To maneuver (the bull) by means of a cape in a bullfight.


To cover or conceal with a cloak or something that acts like a cloak
Mist that cloaks the mountains.


(geography) A piece or point of land, extending beyond the adjacent coast into a sea or lake; a promontory; a headland.


A long outer garment worn over the shoulders covering the back; a cape, often with a hood.


A sleeveless garment or part of a garment, hanging from the neck over the back, arms, and shoulders.


A blanket-like covering, often metaphorical.
Night hid her movements with its cloak of darkness.


(slang) A superhero.


(figurative)  That which conceals; a disguise or pretext.
RQ:South Twelve Sermons


To incite or attract (a bull) to charge a certain direction, by waving a cape.


(Internet) A text replacement for an IRC user's hostname or IP address, making the user less identifiable.


(nautical) To head or point; to keep a course.
The ship capes southwest by south.


(transitive) To cover as with a cloak.


To skin an animal, particularly a deer.


To cover up, hide or conceal.


To defend or praise, especially that which is unworthy.


To render or become invisible via futuristic technology.
The ship cloaked before entering the enemy sector of space.


(obsolete) To look for, search after.


A loose outer garment, extending from the neck downwards, and commonly without sleeves. It is longer than a cape, and is worn both by men and by women.


To gaze or stare.
The captain just caped mindlessly into the distance as his ship was hit by volley after volley.


That which conceals; a disguise or pretext; an excuse; a fair pretense; a mask; a cover.
No man is esteemed any ways considerable for policy who wears religion otherwise than as a cloak.


A piece or point of land, extending beyond the adjacent coast into the sea or a lake; a promontory; a headland.


To cover with, or as with, a cloak; hence, to hide or conceal.
Now glooming sadly, so to cloak her matter.


A sleeveless garment or part of a garment, hanging from the neck over the back, arms, and shoulders, but not reaching below the hips. See Cloak.


Anything that covers or conceals


To head or point; to keep a course; as, the ship capes southwest by south.


A loose outer garment


To gape.


Hide under a false appearance;
He masked his disappointment


A strip of land projecting into a body of water


A symbol of secrecy or mystery.
She walked under the cloak of night.


A sleeveless garment like a cloak but shorter


An all-encompassing shelter or shield.
The cloak of the night sky enveloped the desert.


A sleeveless garment hanging from the neck.
She wore a red cape to the masquerade.


A geographical feature extending into a body of water.
Cape Cod is a popular vacation destination.


A garment used symbolically (in literature, etc.).
His cape represented hope to the downtrodden city.


Are "capes" primarily associated with any particular cultural or historical imagery?

Yes, capes are often associated with superheroes, royalty, and sometimes fashion.

How would you define a "cloak"?

A cloak is a loose, sleeveless outer garment, often with a hood, that can be closed for more body coverage.

Is a "cloak" typically longer than a "cape"?

Often, yes. Cloaks are generally designed to cover more of the body and are usually longer.

How does a "cape" typically fasten, if at all?

Capes may fasten at the neck but are often left open.

Can a "cape" be a geographical term?

Yes, in geography, a "cape" refers to a pointed piece of land that extends into a body of water.

Are "cloaks" related to any particular kind of imagery?

Cloaks are often related to mystery, wizards, medieval times, and sometimes concealment or protection.

Do "capes" and "cloaks" have different origins?

Yes, "cape" comes from the Latin "cappa," while "cloak" originates from the Old North French “cloque.”

What is the basic definition of a "cape"?

A cape is a sleeveless garment that hangs from the neck and can vary in length.

Is a "cloak" always a piece of clothing?

Predominantly yes, but "cloak" can metaphorically describe something covering or concealing, e.g., "a cloak of secrecy."

Is the "cloak" metaphorically used in language?

Yes, "cloak" is used metaphorically to describe something that covers, conceals, or obscures, like "a cloak of mystery."

Can both "cape" and "cloak" be used as verbs?

"Cloak" can be used as a verb, meaning to cover or conceal. "Cape" is not commonly used as a verb in the same way.

Are "cloaks" considered outdated in modern apparel?

Cloaks are less common in modern fashion but might be used for stylized or themed attire.

Can a "cape" have a hood?

Typically, capes do not have hoods, though there are variations that might.

Can "cape" and "cloak" be used interchangeably?

They can be in some contexts due to their similarities, but they have distinctive characteristics that differentiate them.

Can a "cape" refer to anything other than clothing or geography?

Less commonly, but yes, e.g., in blacksmithing, a "cape" chisel has a narrow, tapered edge.

Are "capes" commonly worn in contemporary fashion?

Capes appear cyclically in fashion, sometimes being utilized in haute couture and winter wear.

Does a "cloak" have fastenings or closures?

Yes, cloaks often have closures, which can be ties, buttons, or clasps, to envelop the wearer.

Which is more likely to be worn for warmth, a "cape" or a "cloak"?

A cloak, due to its more enveloping nature and ability to close, is more likely to be worn for warmth.

How is "cape" used metaphorically?

"Cape" isn’t widely used metaphorically, but it can symbolize strength or heroism in certain contexts, owing to its association with superheroes.

Are "capes" and "cloaks" featured prominently in any literary or film genres?

Yes, capes and cloaks are often prominent in genres like fantasy, historical dramas, and superhero narratives.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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