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A girl with light blond hair

Blond or blonde (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 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 ("sandy") blond colors (the latter with more eumelanin). On the Fischer–Saller scale blond color ranges from A to J (blond brown).[1]


Etymology, spelling, and grammar

The word "blond" is first attested in English in 1481[2] and derives from Old French blund, blont meaning "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut".[3] It gradually eclipsed the native term "fair", of same meaning, from Old English fæġer, to become the general term for "light complexioned". The French (and thus also the English) word "blond" has two possible origins. Some linguists[citation needed] 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" (Cf. blend). Also, Old English beblonden meant "dyed" as ancient Germanic warriors were noted for dying their hair. However, 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.[4]

"Blond", with its continued gender-varied usage, is one of few adjectives in written English to retain separate masculine and feminine grammatical genders. Each of the two forms, however, are pronounced the same way. American Heritage's Book of English Usage propounds that, insofar as "a blonde" can be used to describe a woman but not a man who is merely said to possess blond(e) hair, the term is an example of a "sexist stereotype [whereby] women are primarily defined by their physical characteristics."[5] The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) records that the phrase "big blond beast" was used in the 20th century to refer specifically to men "of the Nordic type" (that is to say, blond-haired). Particularly this had associations with Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch.[6] The OED also records that blond as an adjective is especially used with reference to women, in which case it is likely to be spelt "blonde", citing three Victorian usages of the term. The masculine version is used to describe a plural, in "blonds of the European race",[6] in a citation from 1833 Penny cyclopedia, which distinguishes genuine blondness as a Caucasian feature distinct from albinism.[7] By the early 1990s, "blonde moment" or being a "dumb blonde" had come into common parlance to mean "an instance of a person, esp. a woman... being foolish or scatter-brained."[8] Another hair color word of French origin, brunet(te) (from the same Germanic root that gave "brown"), also functions in the same way in orthodox English. The OED gives "brunet" as meaning "dark-complexioned" or a "dark-complexioned person", citing a comparative usage of brunet and blond to Thomas Henry Huxley in saying, "The present contrast of blonds and brunets existed among them".[9] "Brunette" can be used, however, like "blonde", to describe a mixed-gender populace. The OED quotes Grant Allen, "The nation which resulted...being sometimes blonde, sometimes brunette."[10]

"Blond" and "blonde" are also occasionally used to refer to objects that have a color reminiscent of fair hair. Examples include pale wood and lager beer. For example, the OED records its use in 19th century poetic diction to describe flowers, "a variety of clay ironstone of the coal measures", "the colour of raw silk",[6] and a breed of ray.[11]


Various subcategories of blond hair have been defined to describe someone with blond hair more accurately. Common examples include the following:

Evolution of blond hair

A boy with medium blond hair

Natural lighter hair colors occur most often in Europe and less frequently in other areas.[24] In northern European populations, the occurrence of blond 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 research carried out at three Japanese universities, the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair in Europe has been isolated to about 11,000 years ago during the last ice age.[25]

A typical explanation found in the scientific literature for the evolution of light hair is related to the requirement for vitamin D synthesis and northern Europe's seasonal deficiency of sunlight.[26] 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.

Blond children in Afghanistan

An alternative hypothesis was presented by Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, who claims blond hair evolved very quickly in a specific area at the end of the last ice age by means of sexual selection.[27] According to Frost, the appearance of blond hair and blue eyes in some northern European women made them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.[28]

A theory propounded in The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), says blond hair became predominant in Northern Europe beginning about 3,000 BC, in the area now known as Lithuania, among the recently arrived Proto-Indo-European 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 blond hair more attractive.[29]

It is now hypothesized by researchers that blond hair evolved more than once. Published in May 2012 in Science, a study of people from the Solomon Islands in Melanesia found that an amino acid change in TYRP1 produced blonde hair.[30][31]

Geographic distribution


Map of Italy shows the distribution of blonde hair in the country; hair color tends to be darker the farther south you go in the country.

Naturally blonds are found many parts of the world, but blond hair is most frequently found among the populations of Northern Europe. The pigmentation of both hair and eyes is lightest around the Baltic Sea and their darkness increases regularly and almost concentrically around this region.[32]

Generally, blond hair in Europeans is associated with lighter eye color (gray, blue, green and hazel) and (sometimes freckled) light skin tone. Strong sunlight also, on some people but not all, lightens hair of any pigmentation,[citation needed] to varying degrees, and causes many blond people to freckle, especially during childhood.



The United States, Canada, Argentina and Uruguay (along with Australia and New Zealand) are overall considered as the only countries with a great majority of White population outside Eurasia because a great majority of their population has European origins.[33] These countries also have the highest frequency of naturally blondes in the Americas, being higher in North America:

The River Plate's basin has an important amount of fair-haired people:

There are other American countries with a lower but noticeable frequency, such as Brazil (6%), Chile (5%), Cuba (4%) and Costa Rica (3%). Blonds are also found (but rarely) in the rest of the American countries, where they accounts for 1% or less of the population.


A 2009 study found that light hair colors were already present in southern Siberia during the Bronze Age.[34]

In Central Asia, there is a lower frequency of natural blonds found among some ethnic populations. But blonds are found at comparatively high frequency among the Nuristani people of eastern Afghanistan, who have about one-third recessive blondism.[35]

In northwestern and northern Pakistan, the Kalash tribe (related to Nuristanis) also have an unusually high frequency of blond hair, while blond hair is also found among many Pashtuns tribes of the area, such as the Afridis residing near the Khyber Pass. Around 10% of Tajiks also have blond hair, more prevalent in the Pamir region.[36] Blond hair color also naturally occurs among other people from Afghanistan, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan regions of Pakistan; these groups include Chitralis, Kashmiris, Shinas and Burusho.

Blonds are also found in Turkey, especially in the northern (Caucasus) and western parts of the country.[citation needed] Blonds are also found in parts of southwest and northern Iran, especially in the Caspian and Caucasus provinces.[citation needed] Blonds are also found in the Levant, Israel (especially among the Ashkenazim), in western Syria, Lebanon, in northern Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories.[citation needed] Jordan have a frequency of blonds as well.[citation needed] Blond hair is also a common sight among Berbers of North Africa, especially in the Rif and Kabyle region and also among Maghreb Arabs of Berber descent.[37]


Blond girl from Vanuatu
A boy with blond hair in Vanuatu

Aboriginal Australians, especially in the west-central parts of the continent, have a high frequency of natural blond-to-brown hair,[38] with as many as 90–100% of children having blond hair in some areas.[39] The trait among Indigenous Australians is primarily associated with children. In maturity the hair usually turns a darker brown color, but sometimes remains blond.[39] Blondness is also found in some other parts of the South Pacific, such as the Solomon Islands,[30][31] Vanuatu, and Fiji, again with higher incidences in children.

As in all human populations, natural blond hair is more common among young children than adults, as blond hair usually darkens to a brown shade with age. Natural blond hair is rare in adulthood, with some reports that only about 2% of the world's population is naturally blond.[40]

Relation to age

Blond hair is most common in light-skinned infants and children,[41] 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 although such natural hair usually falls out quickly. Blond hair tends to turn darker with age, and many children's blond hair turns light, medium, dark brown or black before or during their adult years.[41] As blond hair tends to turn brunette with age, natural blonde hair is rare and makes up approximately 2% of the world's population.[42]

Folklore and mythology

Southern Europe

The Greek gods are cited as varying in their appearances. While Poseidon was described as having a blue-black beard, and Zeus blue-black eyebrows, Pindar described Athena as fair-haired, and Pheidas described her as golden-haired. Hera, Apollo and Aphrodite were also described as blonds.[43] Pindar collectively described the Homeric Danaans of the time of the war between Argos and Thebes as fair-haired.[43] The Spartans are described as fair-haired by Bacchylides. In the work of Homer, Menelaus the king of the Spartans is, together with other Achaean leaders, portrayed as blond.[43] Although dark hair colours were predominant in the works of Homer, there is only one case of a dark hero, and that is when the blond Odysseus is transformed by Athena and his beard becomes blue-black. Other blond characters in Homer are Peleus, Achilles, Meleager, Agamede, and Rhadamanthys.[43]

Details of the "bikini girls" mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily, 4th century AD.

According to Francis Owens,[44] Roman literary records describe a large number of well-known Roman historical personalities as blond. In addition, 250 individuals are recorded to have had the name Flavius, meaning blond, and there are there are various people named Rufus and Rutilius, meaning red haired and reddish-haired, respectively. The following Roman gods are said to have had blond hair: Amor, Apollo, Aurora, Bacchus, Ceres, Diana, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva and Venus.[44] An emperor, Nero, descended from an aristocratic family, is by the historian Suetonius described as: "... his hair light blond,... his eyes blue..."[45]

According to Victoria Sherrow, those Romans who were fair-haired preferred to dye their hair dark in the early period of Ancient Rome; at one point in time blond hair was even associated with prostitutes.[46] The preference changed to bleaching the hair blond when Greek culture, which practiced bleaching, reached Rome, and was reinforced when the legions that conquered Gaul returned with blond slaves.[46] Roman women tried to lighten their hair, but the substances often caused hair loss, so they resorted to wigs made from the captives’ hair.[47]

Juvenal wrote that Messalina, Roman empress of very noble birth, would hide her black hair with a blond wig for her nightly visits to the brothel: sed nigrum flavo crinem abscondente galero intravit calidum veteri centone lupanar. [48] In his Commentary on the Aeneid of Virgil, Maurus Servius Honoratus noted that the respectable matron was only black haired, never blond.[49] In the same passage, he mentioned that Cato the Elder wrote that some matrons would sprinkle golden dust on their hair to make it reddish-color.

From an ethnic point of view, Roman authors associated blond and reddish hair with the Gauls and the Germans: e.g., Virgil describes the hair of the Gauls as "golden" (aurea caesaries),[50] Tacitus wrote that "the Germans have fierce blue eyes, red hair, huge frames";[51] in accordance with Ammianus, almost all the Gauls were "of tall stature, fair and ruddy".[52]

Northern Europe

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

In Norse mythology, the goddess Sif has famously blonde hair, which some scholars have identified as representing golden wheat.[53] In the Poetic Edda poem Rígsþula, the blond man Jarl is considered to be the ancestor of the dominant warrior class.

In Northern European folklore, supernatural beings 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 beings.[54] Elves and fairies were often portrayed with blond hair in illustrations in children's book of fairy tales. This continues the theme that blond hair is associated with beauty and goodness.

Contemporary popular culture


In contemporary popular culture, it is often stereotyped that men find blond women more attractive than women with other hair colors.[46] For example, Anita Loos popularized this idea in her 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.[46] Blondes are often assumed to have more fun; for example, in a Clairol commercial for hair colorant, they use the phrase "Is it true blondes have more fun?"[46] Some women have reported they feel other people expect them to be more fun-loving after having lightened their hair.[46] The "blonde stereotype" is also associated with being less serious or less intelligent.[46] This can be seen in blonde jokes.[46] It is believed the originator of the "dumb blonde" was an 18th century blonde French prostitute named Rosalie Duthé whose reputation of being beautiful but dumb inspired a play about her called Les Curiosites de la Foire (Paris 1775).[46] Blonde actresses have contributed to this perception; some of them include Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Jayne Mansfield, and Goldie Hawn during her time at Laugh-In.[46]

The band Blonde Ambition, from Orlando, Fla., performs at the Guantanamo Bay Tiki Bar, July 3, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock preferred to cast blonde women for major roles in his films as he believed that the audience would suspect them the least, comparing them to "virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints", hence the term "Hitchcock blonde".[55] This stereotype has become so ingrained it has spawned counter-narratives, such as in the 2001 film Legally Blonde in which Reese Witherspoon succeeds at Harvard despite biases against her beauty and blonde hair,[46] and terms developed such as cookie cutter blond (CCB), implying standardized blond looks and standard perceived social and intelligence characteristics of a blond. Many actors and actresses in Mestizo America and Hispanic United States seem to have Nordic features—blond hair, blue eyes, and pale skin.[56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64]

In colloquial French, "ma blonde" means "my girlfriend", regardless of the color of the specific woman's hair. Such is for example the reference in the name of the still-current 17th century chanson "Auprès de ma blonde".

Blonds in fiction

In Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, the ideal beauty is Dulcinea whose "hairs are gold"; in Milton's poem Paradise Lost the noble and innocent Adam and Eve have "golden tresses",[65][66] the protagonist-womanizer 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 favorable year following the War of the Ring was signified in the Shire by an exceptional number of blonde-haired children. In Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth series, the people of D'Hara (notably "full-blooded D'Harans") are characterised by having blonde hair, along with blue eyes.

In science fiction, the nordic aliens are described as human-looking with blond hair and blue eyes, hence the name "nordic". They are benign, following the association of blond hair with beauty and goodness in European folklore and mythology.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Analysis of Hair Samples of Mummies from Semna South (Sudanese Nubia)". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 1978. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  2. ^ "blonde | blond, adj. and n.". OED Online. March 2012. Oxford University Press. Web. 17 May 2012.
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Blond (Adj.)." Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. 17 May 2012. ]
  4. ^ Origin of "blonde", from Online Etymology Dictionary.
  5. ^ "Blonde/Brunet" from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1996)
  6. ^ a b c "blonde, blond, a. and n." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 5 Aug. 2010.
  7. ^ Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, s.v. Albinos. Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain, 1833).
  8. ^ "blonde, blond, a. and n." The Oxford English Dictionary. June 2006 [draft editions]. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 5 Aug. 2010
  9. ^ "brunet, a. and n." The Oxford English Dictionary. June 2006 [draft editions]. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 5 Aug. 2010
  10. ^ [ttp:// "brunette, n. and a."] The Oxford English Dictionary. June 2006 [draft editions]. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 5 Aug. 2010.
  11. ^ "blonde, blond, a. and n." The Oxford English Dictionary. Additions Series 1997. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 5 Aug. 2010.
  12. ^ "Flaxen" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  13. ^ "Flaxen" in Merriam-Webster
  14. ^ "Platinum blonde" in Merriam-Webster
  15. ^ "Towhead" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  16. ^ "Towhead" in Merriam-Webster
  17. ^ "Sandy" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  18. ^ "Sandy" in Merriam-Webster
  19. ^ "Strawberry blond" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  20. ^ "Dirty blond" at
  21. ^ ""Dishwater blonde" in Encarta". "Dishwater blonde" in Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31.
  22. ^ "Ash-blond" in Merriam-Webster
  23. ^ "Peroxide blond" at
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ Dobson, Roger; Taher, Abul (2006-02-26). "CorrectedCavegirls were first blondes to have fun". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  26. ^ Robins, Ashley H. Biological perspectives on human pigmentation. Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 195–208.
  27. ^ 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)
  28. ^ Clout, Laura (2007-11-19). "Blonde women make men less clever". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ a b Kenny, Eimear E.; Timpson, Nicholas J. (4 May 2012). "Melanesian Blond Hair Is Caused by an Amino Acid Change in TYRP1". Science (journal).
  31. ^ a b Corbyn, Zoë (3 May 2012). "Blonde hair evolved more than once".
  32. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, L., Menozzi, P. and Piazza, A. (1994) The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  33. ^ European Migration and Imperialism
  34. ^ Christine Keyser, Caroline Bouakaze, Eric Crubézy, Valery G. Nikolaev, Daniel Montagnon, Tatiana Reis and Bertrand Ludes (2009). Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people. Human Genetics. Volume 126, Number 3, 395-410, doi:10.1007/s00439-009-0683-0.
  35. ^ Dupree, L.. "Afghānistān: (iv.) ethnography". In Ehsan Yarshater. Encyclopædia Iranica (Online Edition ed.). United States: Columbia University. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  36. ^ Around the Roof of the World. Nicholas Shoumatoff, Nina Shoumatoff (2000). University of Michigan Press. p.9. ISBN 0-472-08669-3
  37. ^ "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
  38. ^ "Modern Human Variation: Overview". 2009-11-08. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  39. ^ a b "Gene Expression: Blonde Australian Aboriginals". Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b Ridley, Matt. Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. Published by HarperCollins, 2nd ed. 2003, pp. 293–294.
  42. ^"
  43. ^ a b c d Myres, John Linton (1967). Who were the Greeks?, pp. 192-199. University of California Press.
  44. ^ a b " (Francis Owen,The Germanic people; their Origin Expansion & Culture", 1993 Barnes & Noble Books ISBN 0-88029-579-1, page 49.)
  45. ^ "Suetonius • Life of Nero".*.html#51. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Victoria Sherrow. Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history. Page 149
  47. ^ Victoria Sherrow, For Appearance' Sake: The Historical Encyclopedia of Good Looks, Beauty, and Grooming, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 136, Google Books
  48. ^ Juv. 2.6.120-121
  49. ^ Serv. A. 4.698
  50. ^ Virg. Aen. 8.659
  51. ^ Tac. Germania 4
  52. ^ Amm. 15.12.1
  53. ^ Ellis Davidson, H. R. (1965). Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, page 84. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-013627-4
  54. ^ Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Golden Hair", p194. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
  55. ^ Allen, Richard (2007). Hitchcock's Romantic Irony. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13574-0.
  56. ^ Quinonez, Ernesto (2003-06-19). "Y Tu Black Mama Tambien". Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  57. ^ The Blond, Blue-Eyed Face of Spanish TV
  58. ^ Blonde, Blue-Eyed Euro-Cute Latinos on Spanish TV
  59. ^ Latinos Not Reflected on Spanish TV
  60. ^ What are Telenovelas? – Hispanic Culture
  61. ^ Racial Bias Charged On Spanish-Language TV
  62. ^ Black Electorate
  63. ^ Jones, Vanessa E. (2004-08-19). "Pride or Prejudice?". Retrieved 09-08-2010.
  64. ^ POV - Corpus Film Description
  65. ^ Milton, John (1674). Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books.,M1. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
  66. ^ Milton, John (1674). "Book IV". Paradise Lost. "Her unadorned golden tresses wore"

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