From Academic Kids

A livery is a uniform, worn by a person. In the time of Chaucer "livery" referred to an allowance of any kind (for instance the ciy of Exeter in Devon, England has a street called "Livery Dole" after the Livery Dole Almshouses and Chapel, founded in March 1591), but especially clothes delivered (French livrée) to servants and members of the household. Such things might be kept in a "livery cupboard." The sense later contracted to servants' rations and distinctive standardized outfits, like the knee-breeches worn by footmen in grand houses until World War I, and to provender for horses, from which we have inherited "livery stable" (1705).

From this core meaning, multiple extended or specialist meanings have derived. Examples include:

  • A livery company is one of the ancient guilds of the City of London; members of the company were allowed to dress their servants in the distinctive uniform of their trade, and the companies' charters enabled them to prevent others from embarking upon the trades within the Company's jurisdiction. In Paris, similar institutions, called Corporations were swept away by the Revolution.
  • A livery is the common design and paint scheme a company will use on its vehicles, often using specific colors and logo placement. In this sense, the term is applied to railway locomotives and rolling stock, aeroplanes, and road vehicles. For example, United Parcel Service has trucks with an well-known brown livery. Another example is the British Airways ethnic liveries. The term has become extended to the logos, colors and other distinctive styles of companies in general. See also trade dress.
  • A livery is the specific paint scheme and sticker design used in motorsport, on vehicles, in order to attract sponshorship and to advertise sponsors.
  • A "livery vehicle" remains a legalism in the US for a vehicle for hire, such as a taxicab or chauffered limousine, but excluding a rented vehicle driven by the renter. In some jurisdictions a "livery vehicle" covers vehicles that carry up to seven passengers, but not more, thus including a jitney but excluding an omnibus or motor coach. This usage stems from the hackney cabs or coaches that could be provided by a "livery stable."

The term is rarely if ever applied in a military context, so it would be unusual for "livery" to refer to a military uniform or the painting of a military vehicle.


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