E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Surplice (2 syl.).
Over the fur robe. (Latin, super-pellicium.) The clerical robe worn over the bachelors ordinary dress, which was anciently made of sheepskin. The ancient Celts and Germans also wore a garment occasionally over their fur skins.
Durandus says: The garments of the Jewish priesthood were girt tight about them, to signify the bondage of the law; but the surplice of the Christian priest is loose, to signify the freedom of the gospel.