Geek Trivia

The “Ten-Gallon” Cowboy Hat Derives Its Name From?

Misunderstood Spanish
The Water Used to Mold It
An Old Cowboy Joke
Its Volume
The Japanese Word For Bad Is Incorporated Into Which Video Game Character's Name?

Answer: Misunderstood Spanish

Many a child has puzzled over the whole “ten gallon” hat bit. Cowboy hats certainly don’t look like they would hold ten gallons, but there it is right in the name. (They don’t hold ten gallons, by the way, but more like three quarts.)

So why call it a ten gallon hat? The most popular theories as to how the term entered the English language revolve around the corruption of Spanish terms. Although the ten-gallon hat is an internationally recognized icon of the American West, the hat actually started life as a head covering used by Mexican ranchers. The name was never meant to imply that the hat was ten gallons in size or such, but it most likely came into being as a corruption of either “tan galán” (“really handsome” or “so fine”) or galón (a Spanish term which referred to the narrow braided band around the crown of the hat). As such, either term could have become corrupted when American cowboys Anglicized the name into “ten-gallon”.