The word Parasol was derived from the Latin words papare, which means to prepare, and sol, which means sun. Generally a parasol is now regarded as a sunshade and umbrella as a rain protector, but this distinction only evolved during the late 18th century. Before then umbrellas and parasols both offered protection against the sun, but that parasols were carried over the person it shaded rather than an umbrella, which was carried by the person it shaded. However, there is some evidence of Romans using umbrellas to protect a person from the rain, but the idea never caught on, as it was the Greeks who popularised the idea of umbrellas being used as a sunshade.
The first umbrellas (or more correctly parasols) were associated with rank and there is early evidence of this is Egypt around 1200 B.C. It was a sign of nobility for a person to have fair skin and the parasol's protection against the sun was widely chosen by royalty to ensure the skin would not tan. In Assyria it was the King's privilege and no one but he could carry an umbrella. The status symbol of an umbrella was certainly evident in other parts of the world at this time, not so much for their size, but for the number of tiers as this implied both wealth and power. Records show that the Emperor of China's parasol had four tiers and the King of Siam’s seven or nine, eachhaving an elaborate fringe and tassels. Ancient writings found in Ava in Burma, described the ruler as "King of the White Elephants" and " Lord of the twenty-Four Parasols". In African, the umbrella is still regarded as emblem of rank.