I hear all the time that one word is for males and the other is for females but I'm skeptical...


The usage note under blond in the NOAD entry is explicit:

The spellings blonde and blond correspond to the feminine and masculine forms in French. Although the distinction is usually retained in Britain, American usage since the 1970s has generally preferred the gender-neutral blond. The adjective blonde may still refer to a woman’s (but not a man’s) hair color, though use of the noun risks offense ( : See that blonde over there?): the offense arises from the fact that the color of hair is not the person. The adjective applied to inanimate objects (wood, beer) is typically spelled blond.

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  • Well, since I am British, I should retain the male/female divide, yes? – MSpeed Mar 29 '11 at 9:45
  • Apparently so. But it does say the distinction is usually retained, not absolutely, so you may have some flexibility, although probably it's best to err on the side of most common usage. – Robusto Mar 29 '11 at 9:48
  • No. Since you're British you may be forgiven for retaining the distinction if you're already in the habit of so doing. But if you have no pre-existing proclivity, stick to blond to avoid looking archaic (in the foreseeable future, if not already). – FumbleFingers Mar 29 '11 at 13:20
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    @Brian Knoblauch, @Mark Rogers: As a blond, I really don't understand what you're talking about. – oosterwal Mar 29 '11 at 15:15
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    I'm American. My instinct is that if you're talking about sex, the feminine form blonde is strongly preferred. Google seems to agree: for phrases like "leggy blonde" and "buxom blonde", the e form seems to get about 8x as many hits. (You may want to turn SafeSearch on when you run those, if only because pornographers aren't the world's best spellers.) – Jason Orendorff Mar 29 '11 at 17:28

Blonde/blond is an example of English retaining a written French gender distinction which is not pronounced in English (though they can be distinguished in oral French). Another is fiancée/fiancé (which also sound the same in French). So in the following, the spelling is correct even if the sentiment may not be.

A blonde, a brunette and a redhead walked into a bar. The barman said, "Is this a joke?"

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  • This implies that "Three women – a blond, a brunette and a redhead walked into a bar" is wrong in English. It's not. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 11 '15 at 12:48
  • @Edwin Ashworth: as others have said, it seems that blond woman is more common in American English than British English, whether deliberately or accidentally. For some British readers it may be jarring, which is as close as a non-prescriptive language comes to being wrong. – Henry Feb 11 '15 at 14:07
  • It's less 'wrong' than 'stairs John the the up to top. stairs of'. And we both know which one is bound to be marked wrong by any teacher. kiamlaluno's answer better represents the actual situation. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 11 '15 at 14:12

About the British usage of the words, I have found the following note, in the Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd edition.

The alternative spellings blonde and blond correspond to the feminine and masculine forms in French, but in English the distinction is not always made, as English does not have such distinctions of grammatical gender. Thus, blond woman or blonde woman, blond man or blonde man are all used. The word is more commonly used of women, though, and in the noun the spelling is typically blonde. In American usage the usual spelling is blond for both adjective and noun.

The NOAD has a note that says what already reported by @Robusto in his answer.

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  • You should tell us which dictionary, to give them credit. – Matthew Flaschen Mar 29 '11 at 15:47
  • My Mac doesn't tell me which dictionary it labels as "British Dictionary." I guess it's OED, as the other dictionary is the NOAD. – kiamlaluno Mar 29 '11 at 16:05
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    I found out which dictionary it is, looking into the dictionary files. – kiamlaluno Mar 29 '11 at 16:10

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