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Bikini: Word Origin

Having learned a bit about the interesting fashion and design history of the bikini, a question of natural curiosity arises: where did the word “bikini” come from? Interestingly, the midriff-baring two-piece suit that we all recognize and know as the bikini was not originally known by that name. Its original designer, Frenchman Jacques Heim, coined the swimsuit the “Atome”, because of its small size (similar to the atom). However, the bikini would not last long as the Atome.

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During the summer of 1946, as the first bikinis were showing up on fashion runways, the first post-war atomic bomb was detonated in the South Pacific, near a remote reef called Bikini. The continued testing of the atomic bomb caused a panic throughout much of the world, sponsoring a flurry of “end of the world” parties. Not surprisingly, attendees of these parties often sported the new bikini-style swimsuits. These parties soon began to be called “bikini” parties, in honor of the Bikini Islands.

As the bikini swimsuit first went on sale in 1947, it caused quite a reaction among men and women alike. The swimsuit soon began to be called the bikini, because it was supposed to have caused the same jaw dropping, earth-shattering reaction as the atomic bomb detonations at the Bikini Islands. The word bikini, while still referring to the now-familiar two-piece suit, has become generalized over the years to signify any type of clothing that is quite revealing (i.e. a bikini-style shirt or bikini-cut underwear).

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