English Words For Hair Colour
Summary: English Words For Hair Colour
Today’s English podcast lesson we will talk about the English words used to describe the colour of your hair. We often discuss the colour of your hair when describing what a person looks like.
Examples of describing a person might be: “He’s got blue eyes and flame red hair.” or "She has coal black hair with brown eyes.” However, there are some English words we use which we only ever use when talking about hair colour.
This is a lesson that should interest most people, most of us have hair. Not all of us though! I read a research study that found that 20% of men are bald by age 20, 40% are bald by the age of 40. The research paper also found that few women go bald, and now that I think about it I cannot think of a single bald woman that I know.
I hope you find this lesson interesting and don’t forget to listen to it several times until you are comfortable with all the words being used without having to look them up.
Audio Transcript: English Words For Hair Colour
Hi there and welcome to this short podcast from Adept English. I hope you’re finding our podcasts useful and that they’re helping you to improve your English, but I hope also that you’re finding them interesting. You don’t need to understand and remember and learn every word that you meet in the podcasts, but I aim to introduce a few words into the podcasts, which might be a little more difficult.
So most of the words I use, you’ll already know, but I also include some more specialised or more difficult ones each time. Then you can keep on increasing your vocabulary. Sometimes I do topics which are hopefully interesting in their own right – things that you might listen to in your own language. And, then some of the time, I’m trying to help you more directly with vocabulary or with things that are difficult in English.
Vocabulary for hair colour
So what about today we talk about hair colour? There are a number of words in English, which we use specifically for the colour of our hair. Some of these words are used of other things, as well as hair. And sometimes we use plain old ‘colour words’ to describe hair but at other times, some of the words are just used of hair colour, nothing else.
Black, white, silver, grey or gray hair
So of course, you can have black hair or white hair. That’s fairly simple – and those hair colours exist all around the world. So usually, if you have black hair, you’re born with it and then by the time you’re very old, it might be that your hair has turned completely white. Quite literally, every strand of hair is white. Now usually there’s a period of time in the middle, where your hair is a mixture of black and white. And in English, we just call that grey – or grey-haired. Notice that grey in UK English is spelt G-R-E-Y, whereas in US English, it’s G-R-A-Y? So we would say that someone has grey hair or maybe silver hair, if we’re being very nice and kind about it, that is.
Lots of people cover up their grey hair by colouring it. Of course because grey hair is associated with being older. And in English we use phrases like ‘the grey pound’ - to mean economically, older people perhaps have more power to buy things, more money. We also might talk about ‘silver surfers’ - so people who are old, but who use the internet a lot. So those terms are related to hair colour. If you have a rather attractive older man with grey hair, we might in the UK call him, jokingly, ‘a silver fox’. Think about George Clooney or José Mourinho for the sort of look I’m talking about!
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Perhaps the most-used word, which is more or less only used of hair is blonde, spelt B-L-O-N-D-E. I say ‘more or less’ because you can have ‘blonde beer’ - but that’s the only other thing, I think. So if your hair is very light coloured, slightly yellow maybe, (thinking of Donald Trump there!) then we would say that you have blonde hair. (Or our own Boris Johnson, of course).
Some cultures and countries in the world have lots of people with blonde hair. Think about the Scandinavians, the Dutch and the Germans. And some countries and cultures have very few people with blonde hair. If it’s very white blonde, which clearly has ‘come out of a bottle’ as we say – think of Marilyn Monroe or Debbie Harry, if you know who she is – then we might say that is ‘peroxide blonde’. Peroxide is the chemical usually used to lighten hair. So peroxide blonde.
In the UK, we have people who have what we call red, or ginger hair. Ginger hair is so-called after ginger, G-I-N-G-E-R that you use in cooking – like Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls! And what we call red hair or ginger hair is actually usually closer to orange, or shades of orange. People with this colour of hair are actually quite rare. They make up only 2% of the world’s population. But the highest percentage of ginger haired people are in Scotland, where they make up 13% of the population and Ireland where they’re 10% of the population. So it’s certainly not uncommon in the UK. But America, the US has the highest number of people with red hair in the world.
Brown, mousy brown, brunette and auburn and ‘strawberry blonde’
If your hair is brown – that’s fine, we just call it ‘brown’. But we might call it ‘mouse’ or ‘mousey-brown’. That means it’s a mid brown – just like the colour of a mouse. So a mouse is a little animal that supposedly likes cheese – think Mickey Mouse perhaps – or Jerry out of Tom & Jerry. Another word for brown hair would be ‘brunette’, B-R-U-N-E-T-T-E. But if your hair is somewhere in between brown and red, we might say that it’s ‘auburn hair’. And auburn spelt A-U-B-U-R-N.
And if you have blonde hair, but it’s got a reddish colour too, we might call it ‘strawberry blonde’, which I think is quite a nice name.
Clearly, it’s possible in 2019 to have whatever colour of hair you like! Students in particular like to experiment and having a period of being blue or pink or even green. It’s often part of the freedom. But usually we go back to our own colour – and the challenge for some is what to do with our grey hair!
Helpful recap on different colours of hair
So just to recap – we talked about black hair, white hair, grey hair or silver hair, We talked about blonde hair and strawberry blonde hair. And we also talked about brown hair and mousey hair and about brunette hair. We mentioned auburn hair. I think that’s pretty much everyone’s hair colour covered!
If you like what we’re doing on the podcasts, then go to our Courses page at adeptenglish.com and have a look at what we offer. If you buy our courses in a bundle – so both of them, Activate Your Listening and the 500 Words Course at the same time - you’ll pay less money and it’s really good value. A lot of listening to help you take your English language learning even further.
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: The “Red headed step child” As An Insult
Not that long ago, giving birth to a child with red hair could be a big problem when neither of the parents had red hair. People would look at the situation and consider the child to be illegitimate.
It was such a problem historically; it became an insult and looked down upon if your child had red hair with no explanation. It even resulted in the red-haired child not being accepted by a family or having, its birthrights denied. People started to use the term “Oh is the red-headed stepchild nobody wants!” i.e. someone with red-hair is undesirable!
This insult later evolved into being used to describe just about anything that nobody wanted. For example, in business you might hear someone say “That project is the red-haired stepchild nobody wants to associate with.”
It’s only recently with our understanding of how certain genes work has helped us explain the appearance and disappearance of red-haired children in families.
The gene for red hair is recessive, so a person needs two copies of that gene for it to show up in your child. That means even if both parents carry the gene, just one in four of their children are likely to turn out to be a redhead. As a result, families that have no redheads for decades can suddenly discover a red-haired child in their midst.