Brown Hair - Etymology and Grammar

Etymology and Grammar

Brunette literally means "little brown-haired girl" or "young brown-haired woman", but, in modern English usage, it has lost the diminutive meaning and usually refers to any brown or black-haired girl or woman, or the associated hair color. Merriam-Webster defines "brunet" as "a person having brown or black hair"—with which they may have "a relatively dark complexion—spelled brunet when used of a boy or man and usually brunette when used of a girl or woman". Although brunet is the masculine version of the popular diminutive form used to describe a little boy or young man with brown hair, the use of brunet is uncommon in English. One is more likely to say of a man or boy, "He has brown hair" or "He is brown-haired", than to say, "He is a brunette" (or brunet). The term brunette is the feminine form of the French word brunet which is a diminutive form of brun meaning "brown/brown-haired", the feminine of which is brune. All of these terms ultimately derive from the Germanic *brūnaz "brown", from the Proto-Indo-European root *bhrūn- "brown, grey". The form "brun" (pronounced /ˈbruːn/) is still commonly used in Scotland, particularly in rural areas.

Lighter or darker shades of brown hair may be referred to as "light brunette" or "dark brunette", though in such cases one is generally referring only to the hair color, not using the term as a metaphor for the person; one would be unlikely to say, "She is a light brunette." Rather, one would say, "She has light brown hair."

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