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What is the difference between a Jacke and a Mantel?

Are there any cases in which one could be both?

Are they properly defined or are they elastic concepts?

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    Don't forget the "Weste". Northerners and southerners can dispute for hours about what a "Weste" is as opposed to a "Jacke" and whether or not "Westen" have sleeves. :-)
    – Chris
    Aug 26, 2014 at 19:53
  • @Chris this is just the case when the "Weste" is made of wool. Otherwise its defined as bis zur Taille reichendes, ärmelloses [...] Kleidungsstück [...] (source: duden.de/rechtschreibung/Weste) Aug 27, 2014 at 7:41

2 Answers 2

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They are clearly defined:

Jacke is jacket, so just a normal jacket, nothing special about it.

Mantel is cloak or coat, so actually longer than a normal jacket.

When it comes to length, Mantel goes down to the knee or even more.

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    This should be the correct answer. The difference between a "Jacke" and a "Mantel" is the length. Aug 26, 2014 at 19:22
  • @Roman Reiner Du hast Recht, an die Länge des Kleidungsstückes hatte ich gar nicht gedacht. Laut Wikipedia: "Der Mantel ist ein der Jacke ähnliches Kleidungsstück, der wesentliche Unterschied besteht in der Länge."
    – Noktasizi
    Aug 26, 2014 at 19:30
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    Not necessarily down to the feet -- mid-leg is also Mantel to me, while Jacke would end shortly after the butt.
    – Robert
    Aug 26, 2014 at 22:11
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They are both fairly well-defined, separate concepts:

Jacke - jacket (light, shorter outerwear)
Mantel - coat (heavy, longer outerwear)

A Jacke is appropriate for mild, autumnal weather and usually is waist-length or shorter. A Mantel is appropriate for cold, winter weather and is usually ankle or knee-length.

This same concept also applies to derivative nouns, such that:

Regenjacke - A (light, shorter) rain jacket
Regenmantel - A (heavier, longer) raincoat

Also note that Mantel also means cloak, sheath, or covering and is used in a variety of contexts such as for electrical sheaths on wires, or for ceremonial cloaks, etc.

Additional Resources:

Wikipedia Entry (German): Mantel

"Der Mantel ist ein der Jacke ähnliches Kleidungsstück, der wesentliche Unterschied besteht in der Länge. Die Differenzierung, ab welcher Länge die Jacke aufhört und der Mantel anfängt, ist von der Epoche und der Mode abhängig."

Duden Entry: Mantel

"längeres Kleidungsstück mit langen Ärmeln, das [zum Schutz gegen die Witterung] über der sonstigen Kleidung getragen wird"

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    There are lots of Winter-, Anorak- and Skijacken that are appropriate for winter weather (if combined with fitting trousers). Length is really the only criterium to distinguish between the two.
    – Hulk
    Aug 27, 2014 at 5:50
  • @Hulk Ah but of course, I hadn't thought too long about the various wintry variations of jackets. Without a doubt, length is the decisive factor.
    – Noktasizi
    Aug 27, 2014 at 17:40

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