The Words “Blond” and “Blonde” are Not Wholly Synonymous

Daven Hiskey May 11, 2011 22
Blonde HairToday I Found Out the words “blond” and “blonde” are not wholly synonymous.  So what’s the difference between the words “blond” and “blonde”? (besides the obvious extra ‘e’) ;-)

The difference is simply in what gender the word is referring.  When referring to a woman with yellow hair, you should use the feminine spelling “blonde”.  When referring to a male with yellow hair, you should use the spelling “blond”.

This then is one of the few cases of an adjective in English that uses distinct masculine and feminine forms.

Bonus Facts:

  • The word blond derives from the Old French word “blund”, meaning literally “a color midway between golden and light chestnut”.  “Blund” then is typically thought to have come from the Latin word “blundus”, which was a vulgar pronunciation of the Latin “flavus”, which means “yellow”.  The French origin of the word “blond” is how we get the added “e” on the end when using the feminine form.
  • Another oft’ misused spelling of a word is fiancé vs. fiancée.  The former is a male engaged to be married; the latter, with the extra ‘e’, is a woman engaged to be married.
  • “Blond” first appeared in English around 1481 and was later reintroduced in the 17th century; and has since gradually replaced the term “fair”, in English, to describe yellow hair.
  • “Blond” isn’t the only hair color that has alternate spellings based on whether it refers to male or female hair.  The word “brunet” also shares that distinction.  The spelling is “brunet” when referring to a man’s hair and “brunette” when referring to a woman’s hair.
  • Alfred Hitchcock liked to cast blonde women for main characters in his films as he believed people would suspect them least, hence the term “Hitchcock blonde”.
  • A person with a typical full blond head of hair will have about 120,000 hairs on their head; brunets average about 100,000 hairs on their heads while red heads generally only average around 80,000 hairs.
  • Hair does not grow faster or longer the more you cut it.
  • While the previous “old wives’ tale”, that hair grows faster/longer the more it is cut, has been proven false; another such long held adage, that stress contributes in making your hair go gray faster, has been proven true.  This is because the same effects of stress in your body that do damage to DNA also deplete the melanocyte stem cells in hair follicles.  These MSCs are responsible for making pigment producing cells.

Expand for References:

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22 Comments »

  1. Isto June 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    You should know the word factoid usually means something that’s incorrect, but sounds plausible.

    “something resembling a fact; unverified (often invented) information that is given credibility because it appeared in print”

    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

  2. Grnmtngrl May 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    This is only half of the story, according to my dictionary… “blond” is more commonly used as an adjective, while “blonde” is most often used as a noun (referring to a blond woman). Also, blond is considered gender-neutral in English and the gender-specific “blonde” has fallen out of favor because use of the noun risks offense.

  3. awgie November 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    It is far more likely that “blonde” has fallen out of usage not because it risks offense, but because as is true with many other words in the English – and more specifically, American English – language, people in general are too lazy to learn correct usage and spelling, and educators in general are too lazy to teach it.

  4. Doug February 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Is it socially acceptable to say someone has yellow hair? or is the politically correct term “blond(e)”? I have an impression that in US culture, saying someone has yellow hair would be considered derogatory.

  5. Edgar February 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Hey, Doug! Yellow hair isn’t blond. You should say yellow about yellow, and use the term “blond” to describe blond colored hair. Even though blond includes a great variaty of shades it must be of the blond color to be blond…
    But what the heck. why not let the yellow haired honeys have fun and be bimbos to…

  6. The White Wordsmith October 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    I find your “bonus factoids” interesting and almost could be dubbed a “Why Do You Know That Random Fact?” section. As far as the blonde vs. blond debate goes, I would suggest calling people with this physical attribute “fair-haired” as opposed to “yellow-haired.”

  7. hanzibah January 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    I was surprised to learn this! I can tell you that in British English people generally use ‘blonde’ as it is thought, however mistakenly, that ‘blond’ is a lazy Americanism, as Awgie has said. Also, ‘fair’ or ‘fair-haired’ are used synonymously and interchangeably in the UK, with equal frequency.

    Related question: Is ‘ash blonde’ the same as ‘dirty blonde’? Ash blonde means fair hair that is slightly duller in colour – less yellow than white/grey; what I would think of as Nordic hair. I’ve only ever heard ‘dirty blonde’ on telly.

    • Christine N. December 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      No, dirty blonde is not the same as ash blonde. Dirty blonde is more like a brown/blonde, like when a child is blonde but her hair is turning more brown as she gets older, at least in CA where I live.

  8. rebekahdarisa September 14, 2013 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Actually, I’ve never seen any English person write ‘blonde’ as ‘blond’. The spelling of ‘blond’ just looks odd and unfinished to me, as I’m English and have always written blonde as blonde. We get made fun of if we call anybody ‘blond’, and get annoyed by people saying that we are ‘wannabe Americans’.
    Personally, I’m British and proud to be, and that includes keeping up with our traditional spellings.

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