The History of the Umbrella

The word ‘umbrella’ comes from the Latin word ‘umbra’ which means shade or shadow. A basic concept of the umbrella can be traced back to ancient Assyria, Egypt, Greece and China, with evidence found in artifacts and in ancient art, dating back to over four thousand years ago.

The purpose of the umbrella started out as protection from the sun. Going back to the primitive shelter of leaves, the idea evolved to leafy shelters or canopies to protect nobility and royalty from rain or sun. As far back as 2000 BC, the umbrella became a symbol of rank in China, Japan, Assyria, Persia and India, denoting emperors and Imperial rank.

In religion, umbrellas played an important role as they were associated with tree worship. Umbrellas can be seen adorning the Hindu God, Vishna to the Buddha. The introduction of the umbrella to Europe came through Greece, Italy and Turkey.

After the start of the Renaissance small and expensive parasols were sold to women in France, Italy and England. These versions of the umbrella were probably influenced by stories and paintings in Asian art.

By the 20th centuries, different forms of umbrellas were invented. From foldable pocket umbrellas, to automated ones, to bubble umbrellas, the umbrella plays an important role, both as a general utility and as a fashion statement.