Swimwear Glossary

With so many specific terms used to describe various different elements of swimwear design, updating your swimwear wardrobe can be a minefield! But it doesn't have to be. Here at UK Swimwear, we try to make your life as easy as possible. We wrote this swimwear glossary to make it easy for you to find out what the heck all that swimwear related jargon means. The following article is a fully comprehensive A-Z or mini dictionary, if you will. Which is designed to explain what all those words are that you've never come across before until you decided to go swimwear shopping. We don't expect you to read the entire thing from start to finish, that would just be boring! A quick tap of the ctrl + F keys should enable you to quickly and easily find the definition of that word that just made you go 'Ugh?'. Still not sure? We have also included links to products which we think are a good visual representation of that term.

The UK Swimwear A - Z of Swimwear

This colourful design by Dolores Cortes is a perfect example of an asymmetric swimsuit and has a strap over just the left shoulder Asymmetric - A term which could apply to any swimwear which is not the same on both sides. Most commonly refers to swimwear with a strap over only one shoulder leaving the other side of the garment strapless.

Bandeau - A bandeau is usually a strapless item of swimwear but can often come with detachable straps (see also 'Convertible Swimsuit or Bikini'). The term bandeau can be used to describe any item of swimwear with a single band of fabric fitting around the bust. A bandeau is usually moulded to provide support but can also be constructed from soft, elasticated fabric. It is possible to have a bandeau bikini, bandeau swimsuit or even a bandeau sundress.

Banded Bottoms - Bikini bottoms which have a wide band around the top edge, often in a contrasting colour but not necessarily. This style is also referred to as fold top bikini bottoms. These kind of bikini bottoms create the illusion of a flatter tummy and offers a little more coverage than the regular kind. The term banded bikini bottoms has also been used by designers to describe briefs which, instead of having one piece of material wrapped over each hip, they have several straps which expose the skin in between.


A gorgeous example of a blouson swimsuit from Gottex in black lace Banded Halter-Neck (Or Banded Halter Top) - A halter-necked swimwear garment which has a wide elastic band under the bust for added support. This is a design feature most commonly found in bikinis but could also apply to a sundress.

Bandini - A strapless bikini or two-piece swimsuit. The top of which is just like a band of material around the chest- see also 'Bandeau Bikini'.

Bikini - A bikini is a two-piece swimwear set, with briefs and a bra-like top to cover the bust. Just like a knickers and bra set that is specifically made for swimming or sunbathing in. Perfect for maximum tanning and for staying cool. There are many variations in style such as a 'Bandeau Bikini' or 'Halterneck Bikini'.

Blouson - A blouson effect is created by loose material handing down from the bust which is gathered around the waist or hips - like a blouse. Can refer to a Blouson Swimsuit or Blouson Tankini. A flattering design feature which alters your silhouette and hides any excess baggage you may be carrying around the midriff area.

This vibrant pink crochet jumper is a key staple of a boho summer wardrobe Board Shorts - An item of men's swimwear that is very similar in style to 'Water Shorts' the main differences being that board shorts typically have a drawstring around the waist, water shorts have a plain waistband. Water shorts also tend to be shorter in length than board shorts.

Boho or Boho Chic - If you're not sure how to go about creating the boho look, think 1970's, festivals, in particular, Woodstock or Coachella. The boho look has been a strong trend for a few years now and is still as hot as ever on the 2018 catwalks. Key motifs of the boho style are floral embroidery, beads, paisley, floaty fabrics and tie-dye.

Bows - Bows can be a design feature that is appliqued or sewn on as in a bow front bikini. Bows can also be self-tied as in a 'Tie-Side Bikini Bottom'. When we say self tied, we mean that the art of tying the bikini straps creates a bow rather than a bikini that ties itself!

Boy Shorts - Not an item of boy's swimwear, as you might think. Rather, the term refers to ladies bikini bottoms which are cut in a boyish style. Think cute rather than masculine!

A cheeky pair of Orange Brazilian bikini bottoms from Oroblu Bra Top - A bra style bikini top featuring a strap over each shoulder. Exactly like a bra only made from quick drying, stretch fabric specially designed for swimming.

Brazilian - A Brazilian is a word used to describe bikini bottoms cut in a particular style. Brazilian bikini briefs curve outwards like a Y shape, not as revealing as a thong but showing more cheek than a normal, full brief. The Brazilian is also a low rise and is the second most revealing brief after a thong.

Bustier - A bustier bikini top is one that is very fitted around the ribcage creating a lot of structure in the bust area.

Burkini - A burkini (sometimes spelt burquini) offers full body coverage for modest bathing or swimming. Originally designed for women who wish to respect their Islamic faith whilst on the beach. Be careful wearing one of these items in France, where they were banned, causing a great deal of international controversy.


A simple monochrome swimsuit by Maryan Mehlhorn which uses chevrons to create a super slimming effect in the tummy area Chevron - A symmetrical pattern created by diagonal lines meeting at a centre line.Chevron patterns are particularly flattering when the centre line lies downwards across the middle of the tummy or breasts creating a minimising effect.

Color Block - A geometric pattern created by combining two or three contrasting colours. Can be a particularly flattering effect when used to accentuate the waist area.

Constructed Shelf Bra - Moulded foam cups which can be hidden within the structure of a bikini top or swimsuit. Usually combined with a soft, wide band under the breasts to offer maximum support.

Contoured Top - A bikini or swimsuit with seams sewn in such a way that it creates structure in the garment to enhance and support the bust.

Control Top - A bikini or swimsuit design made using hi-tech materials which provide support and streamline your figure. A big hit with young mums!

This stunning purple ombre swimsuit by Roidal is a contemporary classic. Contemporary - Designs with an innovative and modern cut or design. Often used in the swimwear fashion industry to describe ranges updated by season. Whn a swimsuit is cut in such a classic shape, the only thing it needs to bring it up to date with this season's trends is a colour change.

Convertible Dress/Skirt - A versatile beach cover-up which can be worn in a number of ways. For example, a skirt that can easily be turned into a dress or maybe a bandeau dress which can also be worn strapless.

Convertible Swimsuit or Bikini - If undecided between a bandeau bikini or a strapped one, we recommend a convertible bikini or swimsuit. Convertible swimsuits and bikinis come with a detachable strap which can be removed altogether. Convertible designs are usually indistinguishable from conventional swimwear. The difference is that there will be two small hooks at the top of each cup to which the straps can be attached.

Cookie Pads - Small foam pads which sit between two layers of material in the cups of a swimwear garment. Designed to offer a little modesty around the nipple area.

A stylish beach cover-up or kaftan is a summer must-have! Cover Up or Beach Cover Up - A super versatile holiday must-have garment which can easily be thrown on over swimwear, either to escape from the sun or to carry you effortlessly from the beach to the bar.

Cross Back - A cross back is a sexy design feature which can also offer additional support in the bust and waist areas. A popular design feature with swimmers due to the staying power the cross back swimsuit offers when swimming at speed.

Cutout - As the name suggests, a one-piece swimwear garment which has the sides cut out to expose the waist whilst giving a little more coverage than a bikini. Also sometimes referred to as a 'Monokini'.

Embellished - Any decoration which is not printed on the fabric but attached to the garment afterwards. Can be bows, beads, sequins, crystals, diamante, embroidery or any combination of these elements.


A flattering monochrome 'Fauxkini' from Miraclesuit Fauxkini - A phrase coined by the brand Miraclesuit, specialists in shaping and tummy control swimwear. The term Fauxkini is used to describe a two-piece swimsuit that looks like a one piece. A Fauxkini is designed to be more revealing than a regular swimsuit but more flattering than a two-piece. More commonly known as a 'Tankini'.

Flounce - A long frill most commonly applied to the top edge of any swimwear or beachwear. A flounce is an elegant way to enhance smaller breasts.

Fringe - A decorative linear embellishment made from cut lengths of fabric or strings of beads. The epitome of boho style and a gorgeous way to finish off the edges of a kimono or beach cover-up.

Frong - A swimsuit which has such a high leg that the front is almost like a thong.

Full Bottom - A bikini or swimsuit which offers more coverage around the bottom and lower hip area. Most swimwear has a full bottom unless it is marked otherwise, as having a 'Brazilian' or alternative type bottom.

This full cut bikini offers maximum coverage in the chest area to protect your decolletage from the harmful sun. Full Cut Top - Also referred to as a full cut bra bikini top. A bikini top which offers more coverage around the chest area. Ideal for women who have a tendency to burn their delicate decolletage area in the sun.

Full Piece Bathing Suit - An alternative term to describe a one-piece swimsuit, bathing suit or swimming costume.

Gusset - The piece of fabric which covers the crotch area of a swimming costume.

Halter Neck - Halter neck swimwear has a single strap that fits around the back of the neck, instead of the two shoulder straps of a traditional bra-top. The ends meet at the nape of the neck and can be fastened with a clasp, self-tied into a bow, or fastened at the cup with no fixtures on the neck. They are great for leaving the arms, shoulders, and back uncovered. The effect is that the breasts are pulled together rather than up which enhances your cleavage and creates a classy look.


This cute, pastel blue and white bikini from Watercult features a cute little keyhole detail at the back High Waist - A high waist bikini is perfect for achieving a vintage look. High waist bikinis come in all shapes and sizes with some coming up to the belly button. As well as being incredibly stylish, a high waist also offers a little more coverage and control than a standard bikini bottom.

Hipster Bottom - Bikini bottoms that sit low on the hips for a cute, 60's retro look.

Hot Shorts - More commonly knows as hot pants which are teeny weeny shorts cut just below the bum cheeks - hot! See also 'Boy Shorts'.

Keyhole - A teardrop shape cutout which can occur at the neckline or to accentuate a particularly attractive part of the body such as the lower back or cleavage.

Light Fastness - A fabric's ability to hold it's colour upon exposure to sunlight. Sunlight along with chlorine are the two things most likely to fade swimwear. Swimsuit fabric is especially developed to ensure that it can stand up to the harsh suns rays.


Mastectomy swimwear can be quite beautiful. Nobody would ever be able to tell you've had surgery if you're wearing mastectomy swimwear. Lycra - LYCRA ® is the magic ingredient in most of the material used in swimwear, which provides elasticity and support to swimwear garments. Also known as 'Spandex'.

Mastectomy Swimwear - Swimwear designed especially for women who have undergone a mastectomy operation. Both mastectomy bikinis and mastectomy swimsuits exist and most designs are ideal for single or double mastectomy patients. They include discrete cup pockets to hold a prosthesis or other padding in any cup size. Mastectomy swimwear is usually cut slightly higher in the chest for additional support and to cover scars.

Maxi Dress - An ankle length casual dress that can be worn over swimwear. Many swimwear designers make maxi dresses specifically designed to complement their swimwear range.

Maillot - Also known as a tank-suit. A French word used in the swimwear fashion industry to describe the most basic style of one-piece swimwear garment. Pronounced 'May Oh'. Not a term we commonly use in the UK, you would be more likely to hear the word used in Europe, America or by fashion designers.


A sporty looking halterneck bikini by Little Kiss which features a mitred seam down the centre of the cups. Microkini - A teeny tiny bikini, often worn by female bodybuilders to show off their highly toned physique. Be sure to check the local laws of the resort you are visiting before investing in a microkini as you may find yourself in trouble for wearing one on certain beaches around the world.

Mitred Seam - A term used to describe a swimsuit made from fabric featuring a diagonal pattern or stripes which has a centre seam. The seam down the middle of the garment creates a very flattering effect, in much the same way as a 'Chevron'. A treatment usually given to the seam down the centre of a one-piece swimsuit or the cups of a triangle bikini.

Moderate Bottom - Bikini bottoms which strike the perfect balance between coverage and exposure.

Moulded Cup - A moulded cup bikini is part way between a soft cup and a padded cup. They are a preformed cup that is semi-firm but not dense with foam padding. The material has a thin layer of padding built in for rigidity. This means it can hold its own shape but doesn't add size to your bust. Great for support and often found in underwired tops.

A very sexy black monokini design by Vacanze Italiane Monochrome - Quite simply, black and white. A monochrome colour scheme makes for some of the most striking, yet simple swimwear designs.

Monokini - Also referred to as a 'Cutout' swimsuit. Basically, a one-piece bathing suit which is designed to look like a bikini joined in the middle across the tummy area.

Ombre - A dying technique which produces the effect of one colour blending into another. An ombre can be monochrome, where a colour fades to either black or white or multicolour, where one colour fades into another. A technique often used by the Roidal design house. Ombre is commonly referred to as dip-died or dip-dye. Ombre is a trend which has been hugely fashionable for the past couple of years and doesn't show any signs of slowing.

One-Piece - An alternative name for a swimsuit that is more commonly used by our friends 'over the pond' in America. A one piece can include swimming costumes with cutouts too, as long as the suit is made from one single piece of material. On the continent this kind of swimwear garment might be referred to as a 'Maillot'.


In this example the Pareo is being worn like a strapless dress and tied just above the bust Pareo - A pareo is a simple oblong shape of fabric. It is usually the size of a beach towel or a bit larger. A pareo can be wrapped around the body in many configurations. These include the following: A long bandeau dress, long skirt, doubled over as a short skirt, scarf, headdress, or fashioned into a sling bag for odds and ends. Pareos are commonly referred to as a 'Sarong' although this is technically incorrect because a sarong is designed to be worn around the waist.

Patterned - A treatment which can be applied to the surface of a material to make it more visually interesting. This is usually applied by print but could also be woven into fabric or sewn on afterwards and made from sequins, beads etc. Patterns can be very simple or very exciting.

Peek A Boo - A term used to describe a hole detail in a garment. Also referred to as a 'Keyhole' detail.

Plunging Neckline - A deep V cut into the front of a swimsuit or tankini, often reaching as low as below the navel. A great way to create an illusion of length by drawing the eye downwards.

This black and white rash guard swimsuit by Gottex has long sleeves to protect the wearer from chafing when swimming in salt water Poncho - A Poncho is a simple beach cover-up more casual version of the kaftan. It has less form and is more generic in shape. Often made using a simple hole or slash in a diamond of fabric for the head, then draped over the body.

Push-Up - Much like a push-up bra, swimwear designed to lift the bust and create a deeper cleavage.

Rash Guard - Popular with sea swimmers. Swimwear which covers the arms to at least the elbow, often to the wrist. Designed to prevent chafing whilst swimming in salt water.

Retro - Designs reminiscent of a bygone era but with a modern feel. Most commonly used to refer to a decade more than fifteen years ago.

Reversible - Any garment which has a different pattern on the inside and outside. Can be turned inside out to create a whole new look. If you are short on luggage space (or cash!) a reversible swimsuit is a great option for extending your beach wardrobe.

A sarong is very similar to a pareo except a sarong is designed to be tied about the waist. This is a beautiful example of a sarong from Forever Unique in white, pale green and purple.
Ruched - Creative use of gathered fabric within swimwear can create an artful slimming effect.

Ruffles - Ruffles are short frills that are used in swimwear design as a crafty way of creating curves that slimmer women may be lacking. To create the illusion of a fuller bust for example, or more curvy hips.

Sag - A sag is an unwanted gap or drape. Properly fitting, quality swimwear should hug your contours and never sag. Before you go shopping for swimwear, it is worth checking your measurements and doing a little research into which swimwear best suits your body shape.

Sarong - A piece of fabric which is designed to be wrapped around the waist and tied in a knot at the hip. Often decorated with brightly coloured prints inspired by nature.


This is a cute example of a sash skirt from Gottex, tied about the waist with a wide, floppy band of material. Sash - A wide band of loose fabric which can be tied to create a charming, full bow on a bikini or a cascade of texture at the side of a wrap skirt.

Scoop Bottom - A scooped bottom bikini or swimsuit raises the leg line hem over the hip and/or bottom resulting in a high leg. High leg cut swimwear creates the illusion of longer legs.

Scoop Neck - Can apply to a bikini, swimsuit, beach cover up or sundress which has a wide, rounded, open neckline.

Scuba Bottom - A term used by swimwear designers to describe a low rise bikini bottom, often featuring a belted top, contrasting edge or contrasting zig-zag stitching as is commonly found on wet-suits.

Seduction Top - Can also be referred to as a sweetheart neckline. Seduction top swimwear commonly has moulded, push up cups to enhance your cleavage and can come with optional straps.

This lovely white sundress by Iconique has a flattering shirred band around the top of the bust and arms. Separates - Bikinis most commonly come as a two piece set but some are available as separates. This is particularly helpful if you require larger bikini bottoms than bikini tops or if you require DD+ bikinis. The majority of bikinis are supplied by swimwear designers in a C/D cup as this is the most popular cup size. If you have larger than a C/D cup, you may have more success finding a better fit by opting for separates. Properly fitting swimwear will make you feel more confident on the beach.

Shaping Pads - Shaping pads can be made from foam or silicone and are designed to be inserted into the swimwear lining or hidden pockets to enhance the bust.

Shelf Bra - Used to describe the hidden support concealed within a swimsuit or bikini which is designed to lift and give shape to the bust.

Shirring - A decorative and flattering technique which is created by sewing elastic into swimwear or dress fabrics. By stitching along horizontal, parallel lines, designers are able to bunch fabric together to create a belt of crumpled fabric. A common technique applied to the bust or waist area of sundresses.

A cute example of a skirtini or skirted swimsuit by Gottex. A navy mini-dress style swimming costume with a multicoloured, floral design criss-crossed across the bust area coming up into a halter-neck. Skirted Bottom - Can refer to a bikini, swimsuit or even a tankini which has a long frill around the bottom much like a short skirt. See also 'Skirtini'. Super flattering swimwear which elongates the body and provides a little extra coverage around the top of the thighs.

Skirtini - Although it is an adaptation of the word "bikini" it is any skirted swimwear. These are usually a swimsuit or sometimes a two-piece, that has a skirt attached to the hem of the brief. They are often short and decorative like a tutu, rather than practical. But both are available. The one-piece version is often called a skirted swimsuit. is made up of a bikini top and a very short skirted bottom. It’s quite feminine and perfect for those women with very curvy thighs or post-maternity stretch marks.

Soft Cup - In a soft cup, the material is soft and pliable. These cups offer no padded or pre-structured form whatsoever. Soft cups offer a more natural feel and you can go down a size if you need to, whereas you cannot with an underwire.

Spaghetti - A term used to describe the thin straps, often used in swimwear design.

This silver swimsuit from Gottex is a stunning example of a soft cupped swimsuit with a plunging neckline Spandex - A stretchy fibre incorporated into most swimwear fabrics which provides stretch, flexibility and control. Also, see 'Lycra'.

Speciality Foil Fabrics - Super shiny fabrics, sometimes called metallic fabric, often incorporated into swimwear fashion. Swimwear garments can be completely made from foil fabric or small pieces can be appliqued or heat transferred onto the garment. Although metalicised, these fabrics will not deteriorate or discolour in water, they are specifically made for use in swimwear design.

Sports Top - Swimwear, most commonly a bikini top which is free from underwires, padding or embellishments. Sports tops are often made from hi-tech materials and are designed to allow maximum freedom of movement.

Sundress - A sundress is a dress which is designed to be worn in warm weather. Depending on the designer, it is often intended for wearing on its own but some are for wearing over swimwear. Many swimwear designers design sundresses in fabrics which match their swimwear collection. This makes them incredibly popular with women who go on cruises. A sundress can be informal or casual and is usually made from a lightweight, quick drying fabric.

A classic strapless swimsuit from Roidal featuring a sweetheart neckline Sweetheart Top or Sweetheart Neckline - A classic feminine design treatment given to the top, front edge of a swimsuit or bikini. The result is a heart-shaped neckline which flatters the bust without revealing too much cleavage.

Surplice - Actually a loose fitting, white linen garment commonly worn by the clergy. In swimwear terms, the word surplice refers to a swimsuit which wraps across the torso.

Swim Dress - Very much like a skirtini, a swim dress is a swimsuit with a skirt built into the design. But these use a longer skirt, and look more like a sundress. This is better understood as a dress you can swim in. It has a built-in brief so you don't become exposed as the skirt moves with the water.

Swim Shorts - With reference to ladies swim shorts, these are a popular alternative to classic bikini bottoms. A popular choice for women who like to play beach sports or could also be suitable attire for walking around town. The term swim shorts can also refer to items of men's swimwear which look similar to cycling shorts but which are made for swimming in.

This one piece swimsuit by Piha is an excellent example of a tank one piece - a swimsuit in it's most simple form. Swim Skirts - Another alternative style bikini bottom or could be an additional beach cover-up. This phrase could also be used to describe a 'Skirtini'.

Swimming Costume - An alternate name for a swimsuit. Usually used to refer to a sportswear swimsuit, but it is also a term for every day or fashion pieces.

Tank One Piece - Referred to as a 'Maillot' in the fashion industry. Maillot is not a term which is commonly used in the UK, here we would call this a swimsuit but the word refers to the most basic, vest style swimsuit design.

Tankini - A two-piece swimsuit which is designed to look like a one-piece. Tankinis often offer more support and control in the tummy area than a regular swimsuit and often have a loose fitting top (see 'Blouson Tankini') to hide a protruding belly.

Tie-Side Bikini Bottom - Tie-side bikini bottoms are usually thin, 'Spaghetti' style ties but can also be a wider, 'Sash Tie'. Tie-side bikini bottoms are a great option if you are on a diet and think you may lose weight before your holiday (or equally if you fear you may overindulge on an all-inclusive holiday or cruise!).

This is a typical trikini design from Phax. Basically a bikini but with a strip of material adjoining the top to the bottoms. Triangle Bikini - The simplest form of bikini top which is made up of two triangles to cover the breasts. Triangle bikinis often have flat seams underneath which gives a minimal, retro look or can be gathered along the lower seam.

Tricot - Very fine knit material having high stretch properties. The most common fabric used in swimwear.

Trikini - Can also be called a 'Monokini' or a 'Cutout'. Basically, a bikini which has the top and bottom joined together, usually by a strip of material down the centre of the back and/or front of the garment. Trikinis are an excellent choice for those who want the bare skin feel of wearing a bikini but may not have the confidence to wear one.

Tummy Control Swimwear - Yes, this IS a thing and it is as miraculous as it may sound! In fact, it is such a hot topic that we wrote a complete guide to tummy control swimwear which is designed to help you find the perfect swimsuit that will make you look your best on the beach.

This Oroblu bikini has a v-wire at the cleavage.
Underwire - A thin, curved metal strip which is concealed within the seam of a swimwear garment to give shape and support under the bust. Exactly the same as the underwire you would find in a bra.

V-Wire Bandeau - A V-Wire is a sexy, daring design feature incorporated into some bandeau bikinis or swimsuits which looks as though it might reveal a little more cleavage than a regular bandeau. In actual fact, it doesn't due to the shadow it creates. A V-Wire is sometimes also referred to as a U-Wire depending if it is curved at the bottom or comes to a point.

V-Kini - Think 1980's glamour. V-Kini bikini bottoms have a wide band over each hip which meet to form a V shape in the middle of the lower abdomen.

Water Shorts - An item of men's swimwear. Loose fitting shorts made from quick-dry fabric which are specifically designed for swimming in. Very much like 'Board Shorts' only they tend to be shorter in length and with a plain waistband. If you are serious about swimming, you may want to try 'Jammers' which are similar in style to cycling shorts and are made to help you glide through the water effortlessly.

A simple example of men's water shorts from Speedo
Wet Suit - Swimwear which covers the whole body and is made from thick, rubbery material. A wet-suit is designed to trap a layer of water next to the skin which acts as an insulating layer. Commonly worn by divers or watersports enthusiasts.

Wrap Skirt - Can be a simple rectangle of material such as a 'Sarong' or 'Pareo' or a more sophisticated design incorporating a sash tied about the waist.








Still Haven't Found What You're Looking For?

We think we've covered everything you would ever want to know in our swimwear glossary but there are bound to be things we've missed. There's sure to be something you've come across in relation to swimwear that's made you scratch your head and pull a strange expression at your computer screen. So if there's still a term you're not sure about, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Our expert UK Swimwear customer service team will be able to answer your question and we'll also be sure to add that word to our glossary of swimwear terms.