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Would writing "well-coiffed" automatically imply nicely styled hair, or do you need to say well-coiffed hair or something similarly specific?

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

From the French verb coiffer, which means to do (someone's) hair, the English word coiffure generally refers to a hairstyle or previously, a headdress. To be well-coiffed is therefore to imply a well-done, well-arranged, stylish hairdo.

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However, modern use is limited and is often restricted to more theatrical or dramatic situations. –  AndrewNimmo Oct 22 '11 at 8:59
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Hair is generally implied:

If for public appearances Zilla was over-coiffed, over-painted, and resolutely corseted, for private misery she wore a filthy blue dressing-gown and torn stockings thrust into streaky pink satin mules. [Sinclair Lewis, "Babbitt"]

Or:

...only tender-hearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave... [Homer, "To Demeter"]

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The OED says :

coif :

  1. To provide or cover with a coif; to invest with the sergeant’s coif; to cover as with a coif.

  2. To dress, arrange, or make up (the hair).

So I would say well-coiffed could either mean "wearing a nice hat (or whatever other sort of coif)", or "having the hair nicely done", according to context.

It seems to me that in the quote from Babitt given by Gnawme, it could mean either : in private Zilla "didn't wear a headdress" or "she did not do her hair".

And Babitt being set at a time when it was usual for women to wear hats when dressed up, I am inclined to think the word here means she wore extravagant or excessive hats.

Googling over-coiffed I have come upon this sentence "the over-coiffed and over-fed Puss In Boots" (referring to the character in the Shrek movies). Now, knowing the movie, we can easily visualize Puss In Boots and his exuberant hat.

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On the other hand, I have trouble picturing Hecate wearing a bright 'hat' in her cave. :-) –  Gnawme Oct 22 '11 at 23:27
    
@Gnawme: so have I, that's why I say it depends on context and to me "well-coiffed" doesn't automatically imply nicely styled hair. –  Laure Oct 23 '11 at 7:10
    
That's why my answer says 'generally;' and in a modern context, I think that hair is generally implied. –  Gnawme Oct 23 '11 at 21:48
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