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Hat vs. Cap: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 3, 2023
A hat is a general term for headwear with varied shapes and brims. A cap typically has a peak or bill at the front, and might be fitted or adjustable.

Key Differences

Hat and cap are common words, yet their distinctions lie subtly in their structural and stylistic differences. A hat is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of head coverings, ranging from styles with wide brims to those with none. In contrast, a cap is generally considered a type of hat, often recognized by its brim or peak at the front.
Interestingly, cultural influences heavily dictate the specific categorizations of hat and cap. For example, certain regions might refer to a beanie as a cap, whereas others firmly identify it as a hat. This demonstrates how various factors, including design, usage, and local vernacular, shape our understanding of what constitutes a hat or a cap.
From a functional perspective, both hat and cap serve to provide protection and comfort to the wearer. A hat might shield the eyes, face, and neck from the sun with its brim, while a cap, such as a baseball cap, might primarily shield the eyes with its peaked brim.
Hats and caps also carry significant symbolic and traditional values in various societies. A hat may indicate status, profession, or be utilized as a uniform accessory. Caps, on the other hand, might symbolize casual wear, athletic pursuits, or signify membership within a particular group.

Comparison Chart


A covering for the head, typically with a shaped crown and brim.
A type of hat with a visor and no brim.


Bonnet, beret.
Baseball cap, snapback.


"A" hat; "the" hat.
"A" cap; "the" cap.

Plural Form


Used in Phrases

“At the drop of a hat."
"Cap it off.”

Hat and Cap Definitions


An emblematic role or occupation (e.g., wearing a different "hat").
As a mom and an entrepreneur, she wears many hats.


A soft, flat hat with a visor.
She wore a cap during the baseball game.


A head covering with a brim and a shaped crown.
He wore a cowboy hat to the rodeo.


To set an upper limit on a particular thing.
The law aims to cap rent increases.


A role or part that someone has accepted to perform.
He accepted the hat of the negotiator.


A limit or ceiling.
The company set a cap on the hiring budget.


To cover or provide, metaphorically speaking, with a particular attribute.
The event was hat with a festive atmosphere.


To conclude or finalize something.
They capped the evening with a dance.


A placeholder in an expression or metaphor.
He threw his hat into the ring for the election.


To surpass or exceed, often used figuratively.
The news capped a bizarre day.


A covering for the head, especially one with a shaped crown and brim.


A usually soft and close-fitting head covering, either having no brim or with a visor.


A head covering of distinctive color and shape worn as a symbol of office.


A special head covering worn to indicate rank, occupation, or membership in a particular group
A cardinal's cap.
A sailor's cap.


The office symbolized by the wearing of such a head covering.


An academic mortarboard. Used especially in the phrase cap and gown.


A role or office symbolized by or as if by the wearing of different hats
Wears two hats—one as parent and one as corporate executive.


A protective cover or seal, especially one that closes off an end or a tip
A bottle cap.
A 35-millimeter lens cap.


To supply or cover with a hat.


Is wearing hats or caps culturally significant in certain areas?

Yes, in various cultures, hats and caps can carry significant meanings, denote status, or be part of traditional attire.

Is a cap considered a hat?

Yes, a cap is a type of hat.

How is ‘cap’ used in a financial context?

In finance, 'cap' can refer to capitalization, or a limit set on something, e.g., an interest rate cap.

Are all hats used for formal occasions?

No, hats can be either formal, like top hats, or casual, like beanies.

What’s an example of a hat without a brim?

A beanie is an example of a hat without a brim.

What does “at the drop of a hat” mean?

It means to do something immediately or without any hesitation.

What’s a universally recognized hat?

The baseball cap is widely recognized and worn globally.

How are ‘hat’ and ‘cap’ used in technology terminology?

In technology, "hat" and "cap" can have specialized meanings, e.g., "Black Hat" in cybersecurity refers to a hacker with malicious intent, while "cap" might be used as a shorthand for "capacity."

Can ‘hat’ and ‘cap’ be used interchangeably?

Sometimes, but it depends on the context and local vernacular. They have distinctive features that might make them non-interchangeable in certain situations.

What defines something as a hat?

Generally, a hat is defined as a covering for the head, and it may have a brim and a shaped crown.

Can a cap be formal wear?

Typically, caps are considered more casual, but certain uniforms or traditional attire may feature formal caps.

Are all hats and caps worn for practical reasons?

No, hats and caps can be worn for fashion, symbolism, or adherence to tradition or uniform, not just for practical reasons like sun protection.

Can a hat have a visor?

Yes, some hats, like sun hats, have visors.

Why do some people call a beanie a cap?

Terminology can be influenced by regional dialects; some regions or countries might have different names for the same item.

Are there occupational hats that are not caps?

Yes, for instance, chefs wear a specific type of hat that is not a cap.

Does every cap have a visor or peak?

Most caps have a visor or peak, but there can be exceptions depending on the style and origin.

Do all hats provide protection against the weather?

While many hats provide protection, not all hats are designed with this purpose, as some are purely for aesthetic or symbolic use.

Can a cap also signify rank or profession?

Yes, certain caps, like those worn by military or police, can signify rank or profession.

Is it correct to say ‘baseball hat’?

While "baseball cap" is more common, "baseball hat" is also understood and used.

Is a cap always soft?

While caps tend to be softer than some hats, there are structured caps that are not soft.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited 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.

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