- In the late seventeenth century, during the reign of Queen Anne, an ingenious merchant sold a material that appealed to his customers because it was attractive and cheap. The material was used for summertime wear, but another use for the material has continued to this day, even though the material is no longer used for summer clothing. The shopkeeper, whose shop was in the Strand in London, was named Doily, Doiley, Doyley, or Doyly. His given name is unknown, but his product has thrived. His name, anyway, as doily, has memorialized him in the form of an ornamental mat or napkin used on cake dishes and the like. Hostesses placed these doilies under glassware and finger bowls. They were the precursor of today's mats.During the early days of Doiley's venture, when the material sold for clothing, according to an issue of January 24, 1712, "Doiley raised a fortune by finding out materials for such Stuffs as might at once be cheap and genteel." Dryden mentioned doyley petticoats, and Steele wrote of his doiley suit in No. 102 of the Tatler. But the spelling has become doily.In Japan the taxicabs have doilies on the back of the passengers' seats. In America there is another use for the word doily. Men's wigs have different names, depending on their size. A doily is designed for the fellow who still has traces of his own hair on the sides and back of his head.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.