Bad Hair Day (Words and phrases that describe hair)


by Kate Woodford

Do you know the phrase bad hair day? It refers to a day when your hair looks unattractive but is also used for a day when everything goes wrong. This connection between bad hair and failure suggests that, for many of us, hair is very important! Accordingly, we have lots of ways to describe it. If you’d like some interesting English expressions for hair, read on!

Let’s start with some positive words and phrases. Someone who has a full, good or thick head of hair has a lot of hair: Even at sixty, he has a good head of hair.

Hair that has body looks thick and healthy: Drying the hair this way gives it extra body.

The slightly formal adjective luxuriant describes hair that is thick, healthy and attractive: Her luxuriant hair fell about her shoulders.

Meanwhile, hair that is glossy is attractively shiny: You have such gorgeous, glossy hair! 

mop of hair is a lot of hair in a thick mass: She has a mop of brown curls.

Of course, there are negative words too. Hair that is lank is straight and thin. It has no ‘body’: Unless it’s just been washed, my hair is so lank.

Straggly hair looks thin and untidy: My hair’s starting to look a bit straggly – it needs a cut.

Hair that is tangled is twisted into an untidy mass: I’m just trying to comb through Emily’s tangled hair.

If hair is windswept, it is untidy because it has been blown in different directions by the wind: We were both looking a bit windswept.

Hair that is difficult to keep neat is sometimes described as unrulyhis unruly mop of blond hair

A number of words and phrases describe a lack of hair. Someone who is bald has little or no hair on their head: He was bald by twenty-five.

We talk about going bald, meaning ‘becoming bald’: He went bald in his thirties.

Another way of saying ‘becoming bald’ is balding: He was about fifty and balding.

A small area on the head with no hair is often called a bald patch: I don’t try to hide my bald patch. 

We also use the verb thin meaning ‘to lose hair from the head’: His hair was already thinning.

An informal idiom describing a man who is losing his hair is thin on topHe’s a bit thin on top these days. 

If a man has a receding hairline, he is losing the hair from the front of his head.

Other words and phrases relate to hair on the face – or a lack of it. A man with a beard can be described as bearded: I was sitting opposite a thin, bearded man.

A man who has hair on his face because he has not shaved for a while is unshaven: He called in this morning, looking tired and unshaven.

A literary word to describe a man with a lot of hair on his face or body is hirsute: The Australian star is hirsute for his latest film.

Meanwhile, a man who has neither a beard nor a moustache can be described as clean-shaven: He was tall, fair and clean-shaven.

We very much hope you’re having a good hair day!




31 thoughts on “Bad Hair Day (Words and phrases that describe hair)

  1. Thank you very much, Kate.
    “If hair is windswept, it is untidy because it has been blown in different directions by the wind… ”
    I wonder if there are differences among ‘by wind’, ‘by the wind’, and ‘by winds.’
    Could you enlighten me, please?

      1. Kate Woodford

        Hi! We tend to refer to it as ‘the wind’ (with definite article) unless we’re saying something like ‘a cold/strong wind’. Hope that helps!

      2. Thank you very much for the time to answer my question. Use is more important than grammar. Your response is more than what I expected and it helps. I will pay more attention to its use afterwards.

  2. B. Varadarajan

    The information about hair and related words ,some are new and intriguing while some are very familiar and enjoyed reading. I try to forward to my Indian friends for them to learn as well

  3. Vinod Kale

    This one was not as brilliant as the previous ones. I love the blogs you write they give me an insight of English expressions and apt vocabulary. Thanks a lot

  4. Manar

    Thanks you for such an amazing post! But I guess you mean “Her luxuriant hair fell *around* her shoulders.” not “Her luxuriant hair fell *about* her shoulders.” in the 4th paragraph anyway I am not a native so I am not sure if “about” could fit in the sentence also.
    Well, I hope that sb else didn’t write the same comment and mine just sounds repetitive.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Manar! Thanks for your kind words. Actually, ‘about’ is fine here as a variant of ‘around’ though it’s less common than ‘around’ and quite possibly more UK than US.

  5. Lavender Rosemary

    Thank you, Kate! I am so engrossed in reading all of your articles. No matter what article you have written about, reading it can be very educational. I am looking forward to reading your next article.

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