What to call the area where the hair directions all change on the head? In Russian that term is макушка, and looking for the translation I find it to be top.

However, that is not a satisfactory answer, since some people have two areas on their head where the hair changes its direction. Also, sometimes these areas are not on the top of their head.

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    We sometimes call these cowlicks. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 3:24
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    @medica Really? In my mind, a cowlick points decidedly upwards.
    – user867
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 4:36
  • Google translate has your word макушка as "top," but alternate meanings include "crown," "pate," and "vertex"
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 4:52
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    @user867 - a cowlick can be upwards, but it is an area where hair growth direction changes. Shaved close, these are often whorls or half-whorls (if on the skin/scalp border). But I am not quite sure to what, exactly, the OP is referring. I'm guessing whorls. Maybe. Or crowns? But not on the top of the head? Best to throw them all in. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 5:59
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    No, a cowlick is related to these concepts, but decidely different: it's a portion of the hair that sticks up because the grain of the hair is running against the direction that it has been combed or brushed. I should know, I had a giant one througout my childhood, until I was old enough to get my own barber. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 17:16

6 Answers 6


I know this as a crown, and some people are described as having double crowns. Wikipedia however suggests the term hair whorl and also mentions the terms swirls, trichoglyphs, and cowlicks.

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    I've always called it a whorl, but "cowlick" to me means something completely different.
    – user867
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 3:55
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    Whorl is also what I’ve always heard and used, presuming if I understand the question correctly, which I’m not entirely sure about.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 4:23
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    +1 for crown. whorl is what the hair does around the crown (grows in a spiral fashion). Cowlick to me is when hair that is growing in different directions meets; they cannot lie on top of each other like normal hair so stick upwards. Trichoglyph sounds a bit too modern to have any weight.
    – Frank
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:30
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    Thanks especially for the «double crowns» term. I couldn't have hoped for this much info.
    – v010dya
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 8:13
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    On show animals like guinea pigs they are called "rosettes".
    – Ben
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 16:36

Oddly enough, this phenomenon shows up in mathematics, specifically topology.

A very famous theorem is the 'Hairy Ball Theorem', stated here by Jarvis and Tanton:

It is impossible to comb all the hairs of a fuzzy ball so that: i) each hair lies tangent to the surface of the ball, and ii) the angles of the hairs vary continuously over the surface of the ball ... Any attempt to accomplish this feat must produce a cowlick [ My emphasis ].

The mathematical sounding terminology is 'singular point', but cowlick is the term commonly used for the non-technical sounding statement of the theorem.

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    Cool! Math and English! Welcome to EL&U. :) Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:01
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    I did know about the fuzzy ball combing problem. I think it was on the Numberphile channel on Youtube. I'd accept your answer if it were possible to accept two at the same time.
    – v010dya
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 8:11
  • Wikipedia calls this a tuft
    – Henry
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 9:18
  • A single anecdotal use of a word does not indicate a new universal meaning for it -- cowlick is in the dictionary, and even wikipedia which states "the most common site of a human cowlick is in the crown, but they can show up anywhere" -> i.e. cowlick and crown are not synonyms and cowlick is not the correct word. Everyone has a crown, but most people sport no cowlick.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 10:46
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy_ball_theorem quotes 'This is famously stated as "you can't comb a hairy ball flat without creating a cowlick"'
    – Keith
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 23:38

I've always heard barbers refer to it as the crown, not matter where on the head it may lie.

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    I agree, and it's possible to be double/triple crowned. Cows have them all over the place, maybe where cowlicks really comes from.
    – Frank
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:36
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    @Frank: I always thought cowlick came from the appearance of a person -- especially a child -- with a lock of hair sticking out at an odd angle, as if he or she had been licked by a cow.
    – Beta
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 17:34
  • @Beta etymonline.com has the rather dubious claim of 1590s, from cow (n.) + lick (n.). Because it looks like a cow licked your head. but cows (bovines) do often have a large number of crowns/whorls which can cause hair to stick up oddly. Not just on their head but often in a number of places down their spine and sometimes in seemingly random places like mid rib or upper leg. Cow hair doesn't stick up when they lick it, it's too short and tough. A 500Kg beast close enough to a child to lick their hair is a no-no (even in the 1590s I'd think). I suspect cowlick comes from the hairs on a cow.
    – Frank
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 18:19
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    I can assure you that even today, kids who grow up on farms are close enough to get licked by cows all the time. And the only way to milk a cow (which kids still do on small farms) is to get a lot closer and more intimate than that. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:00
  • @Frank But a 500kg beast licking its own child would be commonplace, even in the 1590's, and that's what the analogy is to -- the whorls left by mother cows where they have been licking their young.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 10:51

I've heard reference to a parting.

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    That was my first thought. Specifically I've heard it called the part of the hair.
    – 4444
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 14:53
  • This was my first thought as well, but it's unclear from the OP's question what he's asking about. It could also be a quiff (think Adventures of Tintin), tonsure comes to mind, but probably not what's being asked, widow's peak?
    – delliottg
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 16:04
  • Now that I see Google Image (and Google Translate of Wiktionary), it does look like crown is right. Still, mentioning as many related words as possible could be a good thing! Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:59
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    It may be worth having the word parting here. But, a parting is a line rather than a point or area. Also, partings are to a certain extent a matter of hair style, whereas crowns/cowlicks /(whatever you want to call them) are natural (and can be seen on people with shaven heads after just a few weeks of growth.) Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 14:45

I have 7 cowlicks, so I can speak with some authority on this specific topic! While I agree that while referring to the condition mentioned by the original poster as a "crown" or "Double Crown" may be more accurate within the professional barbering community, in colloquial usage "crown" is more often interpreted to mean the top of the head, or a ring around the head. "His bald pate was ringed by a crown of thin, nicotine polluted grey hair"

At least within the North East of the United States, a cowlick is the most common and generally understood term, and i hear mine cursed every time I visit a barber.

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    You have my sympathies for your abundance of cowlicks.
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 16:33

This is a first for me to post a comment. I have totally enjoyed all of the numerous and various responses to my question about “hairs seeming to have a mind of their own.”

I have a couple, but 2 of my siblings have several. Originally, I am from WV, and I always heard conundrum referred to as: “cowlicks.”

  • 1
    You haven't posted a comment. You've posted an answer.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 18:32

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