Fur, such as beaver, ermine or miniver, was sometimes used to line the cloaks and surcoats of the wealthy in the thirteenth century, but during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries fur was much in evidence both as a rich trimming on the edges or panels of a garment and as a warm, luxurious lining. This fashionable display even reached the monasteries: Chaucers worldly monk wore sleeves that were trimmed at the cuff with costly grey fur. In the fifteenth century in particular clothing often became heavy and cumbersome through excessive use of fur. Garments trimmed and lined in this way were described as furred:
A burnet cote . . . Furred with no menivere, But with afurre rough of here,
Of lambe skinnes
(Chaucer, The Romaunt of the Rose, c 1366)
The origins of fur may be traced back to an unattested Indo-European root po- meaning ‘protect’.This was responsible for an unattested prehistoric Germanic noun fothram, ‘sheath’, which was adopted into Old French as forre, ‘sheath’. From this Old French derived the verb forrer meaning ‘to sheathe, to encase’. In time this developed the sense ‘to line’ and in particular ‘to line or trim with fur’. Middle English borrowed the verb as furren in the fourteenth century and then derived the noun furre to denote ‘linings and trimmings made of dressed animal pelts’. By the fifteenth century fur began to be applied to the soft fine coats of creatures such as stoats and beavers while the animals were still wearing them. In early use, it was also used to denote ‘sheep’s wool’, as the quotation from Chaucer shows.