A friend plays Debussy's "Maid with Flaxen Hair" in a different key, and wants to call it a different name. I suggested "Lad with Flaxen Hair", but I'm not sure whether "lad" is exactly the male equivalent of "maid", as "boy" is to "girl".

I googled it, but few answers are relevant. I think the "maid" here is something just a little different from "girl", so what would you guys suggest as its male equivalent, please? Thank you!

  • 1
    You’re right that maid is very similar to girl, and conjures up images of a Julie Andrews singing blondely in the Alps. The reason it conjures up “girl” this way and not “woman” is because the word was reserved for unmarried women, especially those who looked marriageable (ie young and pretty, as opposed to an “old maid”). It’s this unmarried thing, especially its entailment of youth, which is the key to your puzzle. You need a word which means “young, attractive guy” or “marriage-eligible guy”.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 12:22
  • 1
    I think a word for he former would be more fitting, but I can only offer a word for the latter: bachelor. It used to imply similar things to maid, but not as sharply (it sometimes had to be underscored with eligible bachelor).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 12:26
  • 2
    maid formerly meant specifically that the woman was a virgin. you wouldn't find a parallel word with this connotation for boys since their status in this respect was never so important that they distinguished with a special word.
    – user31341
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 14:55
  • I'm sorry, but, despite a number of answers, how is a change of gender in the name related to a change of key in the piece itself? First, the title of the piece is "La fille aux cheveux di lin". The word 'fille' just means 'girl' with some other overtones, of which 'maid' is not one. So why the change of gender? What key has it moved to from the original G-Flat Major? Is it now in a minor key instead? That might affect the feeling enough to suggest a change of title. But otherwise, what would be the point?
    – Tuffy
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


Actually, "lad" would be fine to change gender.
The original title, La fille aux cheveux de lin, more than suggests that it is about a "girl". "Maid" was, for whatever reason, the word chosen for the English title by a publisher.
Of course, if one is free to change the gender of the subject , then one would also be free to change the character of the subject.

  • Because of this definition: "Maid: A girl; a young (unmarried) woman; Now arch. and regional" (OED)
    – Laurel
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 11:33

I would suggest the Youth with the Flaxen Hair as the title of your transposed and transgendered Debussy piece. A youth in the singular evokes the same era as maid and has the same connotation of romance.

Lad would be fine were it not for various modern associations: "Jack the lad," "He's a bit of a lad," "lads and ladettes."

  • This is it. This is the word which is counterpart to maid. It strictly meant young man and almost always young unmarried man.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.