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Blond (see below) or fair-hair, is a hair color characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish whiteish color. The color can be from the very pale blond (caused by a patchy, scarce distribution of pigment) to reddish "strawberry" blond colors or golden-brownish blond colors (the latter with more eumelanin).


Other terms used

From the German for flax or hemp touw , the expression tow head literally means someone flaxen haired. Other variations are towhead or toe head, the latter being a misspelling that does not relate to the word origin.

Etymology, spelling, and grammar

The word blond was first attested in English in 1481 and derives from Old French blont and meant a "colour midway between golden and light chestnut".[citation needed] It largely replaced the native term fair, from Old English fæger. The French (and thus also the English) word blond has two possible origins. Some linguists say it comes from Medieval Latin blundus, meaning yellow, from Old Frankish *blund which would relate it to Old English blonden-feax meaning grey-haired, from blondan/blandan meaning to mix. Also, Old English beblonden meant dyed as ancient Germanic warriors were noted for dying their hair. However, other linguists who favor a Latin origin for the word say that Medieval Latin blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus, also meaning yellow. Most authorities, especially French, attest the Frankish origin. The word was reintroduced into English in the 17th century from French, and was for some time considered French; in French, "blonde" is a feminine adjective; it describes a woman with blond hair. "Blond" is an adjective that refers to the hair itself. A man can have blond hair but he is rarely a "blonde".[1]

Though many writers of English use the spellings interchangeably,[2] some of them continue to distinguish between the masculine blond and the feminine blonde[3] and, as such, it is one of the few adjectives in English with separate masculine and feminine forms, at least in written language. Each of the two forms, however, is pronounced the same way. American Heritage's Book of English Usage propounds that this particular use of the term is an example of a "sexist stereotype [in] that women are primarily defined by their physical characteristics."[3] (Another hair color word of French origin, brunet(te), also functions in the same way in orthodox English.)

The word is also occasionally used, with either spelling, to refer to objects that have a color reminiscent of fair hair. Examples include pale wood and lager beer.


Many sub-categories of blond hair have also been defined to describe someone with blond hair more accurately. Common examples include the following:

  • blond/flaxen[4][5] – when distinguished from other varieties, "blond" by itself refers to a light but not whitish blond with no traces of red, gold, or brown. This color is often described as "flaxen".
  • yellow – yellow-blond ("yellow" can also be used to refer to hair which has been dyed yellow).
  • platinum blond[6] or towheaded'[7][8] – whitish-blond; almost all platinum blonds are children. "Platinum blond" is often used to describe dyed hair, while "towheaded" is generally refers to natural hair color.
  • sandy blond[9][10] – greyish-hazel or cream-colored blond.
  • golden blond – rich, golden blond.
  • strawberry blond[11] or Venetian blond – light reddish blond.
  • dirty blond[12] or dishwater blond[13] – light blond and sandy blond mixed together in stripes (occurs naturally)
  • ash-blond[14] – pale or grayish blond.
  • bleached blond or peroxide blond[15] – artificial blond slightly less white than platinum blond.

Evolution of blond hair

Natural lighter hair colors occur most often in Europe and less frequently in other areas.[16] In northern European populations, the occurrence of blonde hair is very frequent. The hair color gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe giving the continent a wide range of hair and eye shades. Based on recent genetic information carried out at three Japanese universities, the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blonde hair in Europe has been isolated to about 11,000 years ago during the last ice age.[17] Before then, Europeans mostly had black hair, which is predominant in the rest of the world.[citation needed]

Isabel I of Castile, a naturally blonde Spaniard.
A Danish man with blond hair.

The consensus explanation for the evolution of light hair is related to the requirement for vitamin D synthesis and northern Europe's seasonal deficiency of sunlight.[18] Lighter skin is due to a low concentration in pigmentation, thus allowing more sunlight to trigger the production of vitamin D. In this way, high frequencies of light hair in northern latitudes are a result of the light skin adaptation to lower levels of sunlight, which reduces the prevalence of rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency. The darker pigmentation at higher latitudes in certain ethnic groups such as the Inuit is explained by a greater proportion of seafood in their diet. As seafood is high in vitamin D, vitamin D deficiency would not create a selective pressure for lighter pigmentation in that population. However, the relatively recent immigration of the Inuit from more southern climates, into their current areas of occupation (c. 10,000 BC) coinciding with the withdrawal of the North American ice sheets may provide a better explanation.

Another theory is that that early men found blonde hair more attractive.[19] Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, under the aegis of University of St Andrews, published a study in March 2006 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior that says blond hair evolved very quickly at the end of the last ice age by means of sexual selection.[20] According to the study, the appearance of blonde hair and blue eyes in some northern European women made them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for males made scarce due to long, arduous hunting trips; this hypothesis argues that women with blonde hair posed an alternative that helped them mate and thus increased the number of blonds.

A Finnish girl with blond hair.

Another reason men may have preferred blonde women is that light hair color is a marker of youth. Since many Northern European children have blonde hair, which darkens as they mature, blonde hair could arguably be associated with youth and therefore, fertility.

A theory propounded in The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), says blonde hair became predominant in Europe in about 3,000 BC, in the area now known as Lithuania, among the recently arrived Proto-Indo-European and Slavic settlers according to the Kurgan Hypothesis, and the trait spread quickly through sexual selection into Scandinavia. As above, the theory assumes that men found women with blonde hair more attractive.[21] That low levels of eumelanin be somehow associated with an Indo-European speaking population group in particular is questionable because of the time lines proposed for the mutation and as one of the places with the highest occurrences of blond genes happens to be Finland, a country notable for a Uralic majority language.

Geographic distribution

Blond hair is most frequently found among the indigenous peoples of Northern Europe. The pigmentation of both hair and eyes is lightest around the south of the Baltic Sea and their darkness increases regularly and almost concentrically around this region.[22] Because of emigration and invasion from northern Europe, there are a number of blonds in Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. Due to migration from Europe from the 16th to the 20th centuries, blonds are also found all around the world such as in North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Siberia, etc.

Generally, blond hair in Europeans is associated with lighter eye color (gray, blue, and green) and light (sometimes freckled) skin tone. Strong sunlight also lightens hair of any pigmentation[citation needed], to varying degrees, and causes many blond people to freckle, especially during childhood.[citation needed] There can be blonde hair people who have brown eyes and ethnic tanned skin.

A natural blond Nuristani Afghan girl.

In Central, Western Asia (Middle East) and South Asia, there is also a low frequency of natural blonds found among some ethnic populations. In Afghanistan, blonds are particularly found among the Pashtun and Nuristani people who have a blond hair frequency of one in three.[23] In Pakistan the Kalash tribe sometimes have blond hair. Blonde hair colour can naturally occur even among people from Northern part of Pakistan which includes Kashmiris, Kalash, Pashtuns, and descendants of European colonists found in various parts of the country like Goa, Pondicherry, and North India.

Blonds are also found in Turkey (especially in northern (Caucasus) and western (European) parts of the country), and northern and western parts of Iran. The Levant Israel (especially among the Ashkenazi, who have some European admixture), western Syria, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Lebanon have a frequency of blonds as well. In Iran, a number of natural blonds are found in some ethnic groups, especially Persians and Pashtuns. Blond hair is also common among some Berbers of North Africa, especially in the Rif.[24] Emigration and invasion from North Africa to Southern Europe (especially Iberian Peninsula) added the number of natural blonds in that region. Emigration from Middle East, Central and South Asia, and North Africa added the population of blonds in Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other parts of Africa and Europe.

Aboriginal Australians, especially in the west-central parts of the continent, have a high frequency of natural blond-to-brown hair,[25][26] with as many as 90-100% of children having blond hair in some areas.[27] The trait among Indigenous Australians is primarily associated with children and women and the hair turns more often to a darker brown color, rather than black, as they age.[27] Blondness is also found in some other parts of the South Pacific such as the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji. Again there are higher incidences in children but here many adults too carry this indigenous blond mutation.

Some Berber Guanches populations, particularly the now extinct aboriginal population of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, were said by 14th century Spanish explorers to exhibit blond hair and blue eyes.[28][29] Because of emigration from Canary Islands, a number of blonds are seen in Spain and in Isleño Spanish populations of Cuba, Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Argentina. Blondness was also reported among Indigenous peoples in South America known as Cloud People.[30][31] There can be blond hair among Peruvian mestizos of mixed Cloud People and Spanish and/or other European descent. The most eastern distribution may have been the now extinct Tocharians in western China.

Relation to age

Blond hair is most common in Caucasian infants and children,[32] so much so that the term "baby blond" is often used for very light colored hair. Babies may be born with blond hair even among groups where adults rarely have blond hair,[26] although such natal hair usually falls out quickly. Blond hair tends to turn darker with age, and many children's blond hair turns light, medium, or dark brown / brown or black before or during their teenage years.[32]

Cultural views

Loki cuts the hair of the goddess Sif in an illustration (1920) by Willy Pogany

In Norse mythology, the goddess Sif (wife of Thor) is described as blonde.[33] In the Poetic Edda poem Rígsþula, the blonde man Jarl is considered to be the ancestor of the dominant warrior class. In Northern European folklore, fairies value blonde hair in humans. Blonde babies are more likely to be stolen and replaced with changelings, and young blonde women are more likely to be lured away to the land of the fairies.[34]

In European fairy tales, blonde hair was commonly ascribed to the heroes and heroines. This may occur in the text, as in Madame d'Aulnoy's La Belle aux cheveux d'or or The Story of Pretty Goldilocks (The Beauty with Golden Hair), or in illustrations depicting the scenes.[35] One notable exception is Snow White who, because of her mother's wish for a child "as red as blood, as white as snow, as black as ebony,"[36] has dark hair.[37] This tendency appears also in more formal literature; in Greek mythology, Aphrodite, is the goddess of love and beauty and also had "golden hair" (e.g. according to an Oxyrhynchus Papyri attributed to Ibycus, Hesiod's Theogony, and also centuries later in Coluthus' "Rape of Helen"). In Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote the ideal beauty Dulcinea's "hairs are gold"; in Milton's poem Paradise Lost the noble and innocent Adam and Eve have "golden tresses",[38][39] the protagonist-womaniser in Guy de Maupassant's novel Bel Ami who "recalled the hero of the popular romances" has "slightly reddish chestnut blond hair", while near the end of J. R. R. Tolkien's work The Lord of the Rings, the especially favourable year following the War of the Ring was signified in the Shire by an exceptional number of blonde-haired children.

A young man with bleached blond hair

In the early-mid 20th century, Nordicists such as Madison Grant and Alfred Rosenberg associated blonde hair with a Nordic race, which they distinguished from a larger Aryan race that included what they called the non-blonde Alpine race. During World War II, blonde hair was one of the traits used by Nazis to select Slavic children for Germanization.[citation needed]

In contemporary popular culture, it is often stereotyped that men find blonde women more attractive than women with other hair colors. Alfred Hitchcock preferred to cast blonde women for major roles in his films as he believed that the audience would suspect them the least, hence the term "Hitchcock blonde".[40] Blonde jokes are a class of derogatory jokes based on a "dumb blonde" stereotype of blonde women being unintelligent, sexually promiscuous, or both. In other parts of modern culture, blonde women are often portrayed as "promiscuous", leading to the stereotype that blondes "have more fun." Jean Harlow (a natural strawberry blonded and later artificially ash blonde) and Marilyn Monroe (pale blonde as a child though her hair darkened to auburn) were notable bleached blonde sex icons of 20th century America, frequently portraying the stereotypical dumb blonde in their films.

Detail of the "bikini girls" mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale

According to Francis Owens[41] Roman literary records describe a very large number of well known Roman historical personalities as blonde. In addition, 250 individuals are recorded to have had the name Flavius, meaning blonde, and there are many named Rufus and Rutilius, meaning red haired and reddish haired respectively. The following Roman gods are said to have had blonde hair; Amor, Apollo, Aurora, Bacchus, Ceres, Diana, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva and Venus.[41]

The physical appearance of Emperor Nero, descended from an aristocratic family, is by the historian Suetonius described as: "... his hair light blond,... his eyes blue..."[42]


The Sunday Times published an article by John Harlow claiming that women with blond hair "are more aggressive and determined to get their own way" than women with other colored hair.[43] This article cited a University of California study. However, it seems that Harlow misreported many of the results of the study,[44] and additionally fabricated various quotations attributed to the lead author of the study.[45][46] Upon reanalysis, the lead author of the study did not find any correlation between hair color and aggressiveness.[45] The BBC then picked up the same story and published a version of it, making the same false claims that The Sunday Times had made.[47]

See also


  1. ^ Origin of "blonde", from Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ "blond" vs. "blonde", from Google.
  3. ^ a b "Blonde/Brunet" from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1996)
  4. ^ "Flaxen" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  5. ^ "Flaxen" in Merriam-Webster
  6. ^ "Platinum blonde" in Merriam-Webster
  7. ^ "Towhead" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  8. ^ "Towhead" in Merriam-Webster
  9. ^ "Sandy" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  10. ^ "Sandy" in Merriam-Webster
  11. ^ "Strawberry blond" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  12. ^ "Dirty blond" at
  13. ^ ""Dishwater blonde" in Encarta". "Dishwater blonde" in Encarta. 
  14. ^ "Ash-blond" in Merriam-Webster
  15. ^ "Peroxide blond" at
  16. ^ "Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun", from The Times. Note, the end of the Times article reiterates the disappearing blonde gene hoax; the online version replaced it with a rebuttal.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Robins, Ashley H. Biological perspectives on human pigmentation. Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 195-208.
  19. ^ Blonde women make men less clever - Telegraph
  20. ^ Abstract: "European hair and eye colour: A case of frequency-dependent sexual selection?" from Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 2, Pages 85–103 (March 2006)
  21. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca; Menozzi, Paolo; Piazza, Alberto (1994). "Europe". The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 266. ISBN 978-0-691-08750-4. 
  22. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, L., Menozzi, P. and Piazza, A. (1994) The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  23. ^ Dupree, L.. "Afghānistān: (iv.) ethnocgraphy". in Ehsan Yarshater. Encyclopædia Iranica (Online Edition ed.). United States: Columbia University. 
  24. ^ "On the whole, blondism is strong in the Rif; over half of the adult men show some trace of it. But the Rif is not a blond country in the sense that Norway, Sweden, Finland, or even England are blond; it is, however, blonder than most of Spain or southern Italy.", Carleton S. Coon, The Races of Europe (1939), Greenwood Press, 1972, p.482
  25. ^ "Modern Human Variation: Overview". 2009-11-08. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  26. ^ a b "Gene Expression: Blonde antipodals". Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  27. ^ a b "Gene Expression: Blonde Australian Aboriginals". Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  28. ^ Dead link
  29. ^ Mysteries endure at Canary Islands, The Washington Times
  30. ^ The Legendary White-Skinned Cloud People Of Peru
  31. ^ Cloud People Of Peru Ancient city discovered deep in Amazonian rainforest linked to the legendary blond haired white-skinned civilisation of South America.
  32. ^ a b Ridley, Matt. Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. Published by HarperCollins, 2nd ed. 2003, pp. 293-294.
  33. ^ Byock, Jesse. (Trans.) (2006) The Prose Edda, page 92. Penguin Classics. ISBN 0140447555
  34. ^ Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Golden Hair," p194. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
  35. ^ Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales And Their Tellers, p 362-6 ISBN 0-374-15901-7
  36. ^ Brothers Grimm (1812-12-20). "Little Snow-White". Grimm's Fairy Tales. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  37. ^ Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales And Their Tellers, p 365 ISBN 0-374-15901-7
  38. ^ Milton, John (1674). Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books. Google Books.,M1. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  39. ^ Milton, John (1674). "Book IV". Paradise Lost. "Her unadorned golden tresses wore" 
  40. ^ Allen, Richard (2007). Hitchcock's Romantic Irony. Columbia University Press}. ISBN 978-0231135740. 
  41. ^ a b " (Francis Owen,The Germanic people; their Origin Expansion & Culture", 1993 Barnes & Noble Books ISBN 0880295791, page 49.)
  42. ^ "Suetonius • Life of Nero".*.html#51. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  43. ^ "Blonde women born to be warrior princesses", The Sunday Times, 
  44. ^ "Science Reporting Gone Wild", True/Slant, 
  45. ^ a b "The British Media's "Blonde Moment"", Neuroskeptic, 
  46. ^ "Egregious fabrication of quotes at the Sunday Times?"", Language Log, 
  47. ^ "Pretty women 'anger more easily'", BBC News, 


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