A cordwainer was originally someone who worked with cordovan – a kind of soft leather, made originally from goatskin and now from horse hide. The leather gets its name from the Spanish city of Cordoba, where it was originally prepared by the Moors.

Hence the word 'cordwainer' came to be used to refer to a shoemaker. But a cordwainer, strictly speaking, was someone who made new shoes from new leather. A cobbler, by contrast, was originally someone who repaired shoes. In more recent times, the word 'cordwainer' has effectively been superseded by 'cobbler'.

© Haydn Thompson 2017