General English

General Science

  • noun a slender outgrowth on the surface of a plant or animal
  • noun a mass of outgrowths on an animal’s skin or a person’s head or body


  • (written as Hair)
    The celebrated rock musical by Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermot that brought collective nudity to the stage duringthe hippie era. It was first performed in 1967, at the opening ofJoseph Papp's Anspacher Theatre, New York; a year later ittransferred to Broadway, where it ran for 1750 performances. In 1969, just after the abolition of theatrical censorship in Britain, it began a run of 1997 performances at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London.

    The musical has little plot, instead presenting a series ofvignettes from the hippie culture of New York's East Village. One of the hippies, Claude, is drafted to fight in Vietnam and his friends lament the disaster. The anti-establishment stance of the show, blatantly pro-drug and anti-draft, was as controversial as the briefnude scene.

    The more memorable songs include 'The Age of Aquarius', 'Letthe Sunshine In', and 'Good Morning Starshine'.

    After three decades in which Hair seemed to have been relegatedto the status of a curious period piece, a spate of revivals occurredin the 2000s. These include an updated version (references to the IraqWar replacing the original allusions to Vietnam) staged at London's GateTheatre in 2005 and the Public Theatre's much praised Broadway revival of2009.


  • noun a single long thread growing on the body of a human or animal

Origin & History of “hair”

No general Indo-European term for ‘hair’ has come down to us. All the ‘hair’-words in modern European languages are descended from terms for particular types of hair – hair on the head, hair on other parts of the body, animal hair – or for single hairs or hair collectively, and indeed many retain these specialized meanings: French cheveu, for instance, means ‘hair of the head’, whereas poil denotes ‘body hair’ or ‘animal hair’. In the case of English hair, unfortunately, it is not clear which of these categories originally applied, although some have suggested a connection with Lithuanian serys ‘brush’, which might indicate that the prehistoric ancestor of hair was a ‘bristly’ word. The furthest back in time we can trace it is to west and north Germanic *khǣram, source also of German, Dutch, and Danish haar and Swedish hår.

The slang use of hairy for ‘difficult’ is first recorded in the mid 19th century, in an erudite context that suggests that it may have been inspired by Latin horridus (source of English horrid), which originally meant (of hair) ‘standing on end’. Its current use, in which ‘difficult’ passes into ‘dangerous’, seems to have emerged in the 1960s, and was presumably based on hair-raising, which dates from around 1900. It is fascinatingly foreshadowed by harsh, which is a derivative of hair and originally meant ‘hairy’.