Blonde vs. blond?

If something has a pale-yellow hue, we might call it “blonde” or “blond.” The difference is that the word “blonde” is feminine, while “blond” is masculine or gender-neutral.

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What is the difference between blonde and blond?

Golden. Honey. Sandy. Platinum. When it comes to describing fair hair, English speakers have a plethora of adjectives at their disposal. But what each of these terms implies is the color “blond” or “blonde,” a gendered term for pale-yellow hues. 

The words blond and blonde appeared in English vocabularies around the 17th century from French “blond,” the masculine form of blonde. But prior to French, the word blond derived from the medieval Latin word blundus for ‘yellow.’ 

Nowadays, we use the two different spellings as adjectives and nouns to describe shades of pale-yellow to sandy-golden hues. A woman with light-colored hair is said to be “blonde,” while a man with similar hair color is “blond.” But if we’re discussing the color of non-living subjects, we always use “blond” instead. 

Why does English use blonde and blond differently?

The most confusing aspect of blonde vs. blond involves grammatical gender, which allows many languages to assign gender to nouns by gender-subject agreement. In our case, the extra -e of blonde is simply a French feminine tag to indicate a female gender, while “blond” is masculine and conveys a male gender. 

The Word Counter covered a similar instance of grammatical gender for words like fiancé (male) and fiancée (female), where the extra -e of “fiancée” agrees with a feminine noun. We also see divergences in gendered nouns for titles like “Ms,” “Mrs,” or “Mr,” which also relate practices of the French language. 

Did you know?: The French word brunet is a masculine term for males with brown hair, while brunette is the feminine form for women with brown tresses. 

What does blond mean?

As an adjective, the word blond attributes a yellowish-brown or pale yellow hue to light hair tones, fair skin complexions, or the color of inanimate objects. For example,

“Scandinavian countries have the highest percentage of people with naturally blond hair and blue eyes.”
“There are many blond people in New York with naturally dark hair.” 
“We asked Google how to bleach our hair blond.” 
“The desk surface has a pale blond finish.” 
“A pale ale is not the same thing as a blond ale.” 

The noun blond specifically refers to a person with blond hair or a type of silk bobbin lace. For example,

“My brother is the blond in the corner.” 
Blond lace is made of silk.”

What does blonde mean?

The adjective blonde describes a woman’s “blond” hair, while the noun represents a “blond” woman. For example, 

“She has beautiful blonde hair.”
“With the right hairdresser, any woman can be a redhead, brunette, or a blonde.”
“Marilyn Monroe starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” 

What’s another word for blonde or blond?

Synonyms of blonde or blond generally include terms like: blondish, fair, flaxen, gold, golden, honey, light, ocherous, sandy, straw, tawny, towheaded, or white. But like most cases, choosing the right synonym depends on the topic and context. 

For instance, to describe specific shades of blond hair, you can use terms like “platinum blonde” or “strawberry blond.” But notice how one word uses the feminine noun and not the other? As it turns out, we can use “platinum blonde” for both male and female genders. 

Let’s take a look at other specific spellings and definitions of blond hair: 

  • Ash blond/blonde: Pale-white color with a silver tint or a light brownish-gray hue (*use dash between ash and blond for adjectives). 
  • Bleach blond/blonde: A matted, white color with a yellow tint. 
  • Golden blond/blonde: A golden-honey hue with buttery tones. 
  • Honey blond/blonde: A sandy golden blend blended with light brown hues. 
  • Sandy blond/blonde: A warm sandy hue with blended yellowish-platinum highlights. 
  • Strawberry blond/blonde: A golden-reddish hue. 
  • Platinum blonde: Very light, silvery color. 

Additional hair-related terms of blond include the noun “blondine” for hair bleach, or “peroxide blonde” for a woman who lightens their hair with peroxide. “Blondie” is also a slang term for a blond female, but it’s also a type of “dense, pale-colored” dessert (similar to a brownie). 

Lastly, people associate the name “Goldilocks” with blond females in reference to a folk tale where a blond girl wanders into the home of three bears. However, Goldilocks is also a type of yellow-flowering plant (Linosyris vulgaris) found in parts of Europe. 

How to use blonde vs. blond in a sentence?

Now that we understand the difference between blonde and blond, it’s time to learn the right and wrong ways to use them. Let’s take a look at how these terms differ by region, and which contexts to avoid using “blonde” or “blond” altogether.  

Blond vs. blonde for American and British English

While the English language has integrated several foreign words, the use of feminine and masculine nouns can vary by country. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, British English is more prone to using feminine blonde for all adjectives, while American English shifted to gender-neutral “blond” in the 1970s’. 

However, the United State’s adjective rule mainly applies toward adjectives that describe inanimate objects (e.g., a “blond wood finish” or a “blond ale” ). Depending on the publication, it’s still common for Americans to read gendered forms of blond and blonde for both adjectives and nouns. 

When to avoid using blonde or blond?

While it’s common to read descriptions like “blonde woman” or “blond man,” using blonde or blond in place of a person is generally faux pas. For instance, you wouldn’t want to write “Go talk to the blonde,” or “My friend is a blonde.” Why?

As explained by Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU), people often use blonde or blond to reference a woman and not a man (or even the hair, itself). The New Oxford American Dictionary also discourages the term’s implicit sexism by stating, “the offense arises from the fact that the color of hair is not the person” (Garner 119, “Blond” 118).  

Beware of “blonde” stereotypes

Historically, the female “blonde” is a sexist stereotype that depicts women as unintelligent sex objects. The stereotype is so pervasive that women don’t even need light-colored hair to be “blonde.” The “dumb-blonde” trope is apparent whenever someone says, “She’s blonde at heart,” or “Are you sure she’s not blonde?” ––which are different ways of saying, “She’s dumber than she looks.” 

To bring the point home, Lexico defines “blonde moment,” as a 1990s’ reference to the ‘silly or scatterbrained behavior’ of ‘stereotypically blonde women.’ Ouch. 

Can we use “blonde” for men’s hair?

Unless someone asks you to identify them otherwise, GMEU advises writers to avoid the word “blonde” for male subjects or men’s hair (Garner 119). However, phrases like “platinum blonde” often apply to male subjects because it’s a proper term. 

The do’s and don’ts of blond vs. blonde

At the end of the day, most people realize that biases don’t “prefer blondes.” Whether you have brown, red, black, or grey hair–– there’s a hurtful stereotype. So, it’s important to be considerate of others and to choose our words carefully: 

  • Do use gender-neutral blond to attribute pale-yellow hues to hair or other nouns.
  • Do use blonde to describe a female’s hair color.
  • Do use blond or “platinum blonde” to describe a male’s hair color (when applicable). 
  • Don’t use blonde or blond in a way that stereotypes or objectifies people.

Example sentences:

Do: 

“The actor debuted his platinum blonde hair …” 
“The newly elected senator transformed her signature brunette hair to blonde.” 
“We prefer to drink blond ales.”
“My neighbor recently dyed his hair blond.” 
“We know many girls with blonde hair.” 

Don’t: 

“My brother has blonde hair.” *Use “blond” for male subjects unless stated otherwise. 
“The interior designer charged extra for installing a blonde wood covering” *Use “blond” for inanimate objects.
“Life isn’t easy for a blonde in Seattle.” *Using blonde or blond as a noun can appear patronizing or condescending 
Blondes have more fun.” *Avoid using clichés when possible

Test Yourself!

Get ready to make common misspellings a thing of the past. Challenge your grammar know-how on blonde vs. blond with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. Which of the following phrases possess a feminine gender tag? 
    a. Blonde woman
    b. Blond woman
    c. Brunette woman
    d. A and C
  2. “The dog’s fur is a shade of _________.”
    a. Blond
    b. Blonde
    c. A or B
    d. None of the above
  3. Which of the following terms is not synonymous with blond? 
    a. Tawny
    b. Towheaded
    c. Olive
    d. Straw
  4. “When the soldier returned, he grew out his _________ hair.”
    a. Blond
    b. Blonde
    c. A or B
    d. None of the above
  5. Which of the following adjectives is gender-neutral?
    a. Blonde
    b. Blond
    c. A and B
    d. None of the above

Answers

  1. D
  2. C
  3. C
  4. A
  5. B

Sources

  1. Blond.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  2. Blond.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaruas, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  3. “Blond.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 183. 
  4. Blond.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, The Associated Press Stylebook, 2020. 
  5. Blonde.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, The Associated Press Stylebook, 2020. 
  6. Blonde moment.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  7. Blondie.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  8. Garner, B. “Blond; blonde.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 119.
  9. Golden, H., et al. “How does Grammatical Gender Affect Noun Representations in Gender-Marking Languages?Proceedings of the 23rd Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning, Association for Computational Linguistics, 4 Nov 2019, pp. 463-464. 
  10. Goldilocks.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, The Associated Press Stylebook, 2020. 
  11. Hair color.” MacMillan Dictionary, Macmillan Education Limited, 2020.