Is bald more correct than hairless when referring to someone who has lost their hair? Dictionary.com states that bald means

  1. having little or no hair on the scalp

and that hairless means

  1. without hair, bald

Both terms imply that a person has lost their hair or has just cut it.

Is there an unambiguous term that specifically means having lost one's hair in the sense that it will not grow anymore?

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    I prefer to say that I am "adopting the Jason Statham look". Got the hairline, now I just gotta work on becoming younger, taller, better looking, and a whole lot tougher.... :P Feb 12, 2016 at 19:42
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    In general, bald implies that nature has conspired to produce that condition, and some other term or contextual clue would be provided if the condition was the result of intentional effort. Eg, "his clean-shaven head glowed in the moonlight."
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:45

4 Answers 4


You are quite correct that simply describing someone simply as bald is ambiguous: it could mean that they can no longer grow hair, or that they have cut off all their hair.

To disambiguate:

Gone bald describes someone who has lost the ability to grow hair.

(Closely related, balding or going bald describes someone who is in the process of losing their ability to grow hair; either their hair is thinly distributed, or they have a (presumably small, but definitely increasing in size) bald patch.)

Shaved describes someone who has cut off their hair. (You'll generally want to specify what part of them has been shaved; saying "John has shaved" is not the same as saying "John has shaved his head".)

  • Thanks, would shave one's head be similar to trimming one's head?
    – user 66974
    Feb 12, 2016 at 19:27
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    No, because you never "trim your head"; the object of "trim" is the thing that is actually being cut, so "trimming your head" would involve removing part of your actual head (i.e. some skin and bone), not the hair. You would only trim your hair or your nails. "Shaving" normally means "removing the hair attached to X", so "shaving your head" or "shaving your armpits" or "shaving your legs" are all okay; in the absence of an explicit object, shaving your chin / cheeks / neck is assumed (for men).
    – Hellion
    Feb 12, 2016 at 19:45
  • Isn't it politically incorrect to describe someone as bald - a bit like calling them fat, or crippled? I have heard the term follicularly challenged!
    – WS2
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:06
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    Something that might not be immediately obvious to someone unfamiliar with English (and maybe to some English speakers who haven't really thought about it much): gone is just a tense of go. Any appropriate tense of go works there (go bald, went bald, etc.).
    – jpmc26
    Feb 13, 2016 at 8:06

A reputable medical website http://webmd.com describes the condition alopecia as the medical term for baldness.

Notwithstanding a variety of treatments, cosmetics and quackery, the condition is more or less permanent.

Hairless, on the other hand, could be the result of a mechanical, not a bioogical process, and can usually be remedied by time and follicular activity.

  • You can mention alopecia totalis (the loss of all head hair) also.
    – ermanen
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:27

Honestly, I think that "hairless" is also too ambiguous. It could mean that it never had hair to begin with.

I'd go with "gone bald." If you just say "bald" it could be temporary, but "gone bald" has a strong implication that it's more or less permanent.


"Hairless" is also ambiguous because it does not refer specifically to head hair. It could refer to a chest that appears hairless, and that would be a more common usage.

A more obscure word meaning the same as hairless is glabrous.

glabrous gla·brous (glā'brəs) adj. Having no hairs or projections, especially on body parts that normally have hair; smooth.

If the person in question still has some hair, you could go with balding, which strongly implies a natural decline in hair, as with age.

  • I love the word! Yet like hairless, it doesn't specify the permanent nature of the condition. I can become glabrous with the aid of some gel and a blade, but such hair as I still own will grow back...shortly.
    – Rob_Ster
    Feb 13, 2016 at 2:43
  • This is the better answer. Hairless generally suggests no hair anywhere. Bald typically refers to head hair (and not to beard or mustache).
    – Drew
    Feb 13, 2016 at 3:24

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