I'm writing something—a story to be exact—and I am looking for a word which means "the top of a person's head." I remember seeing a word in which its meaning is exactly this one from a book that I'd read—Crispin: The Cross of Lead. I think it was something like "tope", but I looked at its meaning and it did not match.

Can anyone help me? I don't have the book with me because I just borrowed it at my previous school.

  • 3
    There really isn't a word in common use - I think most people would just say "the top of the head". And I think the word you remember might be "toupée" (from French, hence the accent), which is a small wig intended to cover the bare part of the scalp in male pattern baldness. – jamesqf May 20 at 4:43
  • 1
    @EricDuminil Just looked at its meaning, and it is "the skin on top of one's head where hair grows." It is near, but not close enough to be defined as the top of a person's head. – CSMAlternate May 20 at 11:50
  • 1
    If you're thinking of "tope"; the brimless cylindrical chef hat is a "toque", and the haircut of a medieval friar (as well as the resulting bald spot on top) is a "tonsure". – user662852 May 21 at 14:21
  • 1
    I suspect that user662852's answer below correctly identifies the term used in the book you mention. From page 310 of The Cross of Lead: "Tonsure: the part of the cleric's head, usually the crown, left bare by shaving". The book does include one instance of the word pate, as well. – Sven Yargs May 21 at 22:36

The 'crown' is the top of the head.

The crown is the top of the head, or the whole head.


The top part of the skull; the top of the head.


the top part of a head


From toe to crown he'll fill our skins with pinches,

Shakespeare - The Tempest IV, 1 - 1,972


Citation from 1535 :

So wente Sathan forth from the LORDE, and smote Iob with maruelous sore byles, from the sole off the fote vnto his crowne:

The Coverdale Bible

  • 2
    Absolutely--I dub thee [Whack!]...everybody knows where beforehand, even kids. – KannE May 20 at 14:02
  • 3
    ...Jack fell down and broke his crown...and Jill came tumbling after :-) – Nav May 21 at 17:52
  • 6
    I guess Jack will be making a trip to the dentist? – BallpointBen May 21 at 20:54
  • From Criteria for accepting passport photos in Dutch travel documents: Height: from age 11: from chin to crown, between 26 and 30 mm. up to age 11: from chin to crown, between 19 and 30 mm – phuclv Sep 7 at 16:44

dictionary definition of PATE, reading "**pāte,** *n.* [ME.; prob. orig. euphemistic.] **1.** the head. **2**. the top of the head. **3.** intelligence. **4.** the skin of a calf's head. A humorous or derogatory term." The entire definition is circled in blue ink, with a red ink arrow pointing to the header "pāte" and another pointing to sub-definition 2. "the top of the head." Image from Webster's dictionary text which states the following:

pate, n. [ME.; prob. orig. euphemistic.]

  1. the top of the head.


Your pate is the top of your head...

  • 6
    +1 "Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits / Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits." (Shakespeare) – CowperKettle May 21 at 17:55
  • 2
    ..And this seems to be the word the OP saw in the book he read according to Paul's answer. – Kodos Johnson May 22 at 1:16
  • 1
    I don't understand why/how this would be euphemistic. – MissMonicaE May 22 at 15:34
  • 2
    @MissMonicaE you would need to look at its etymology to understand. In Latin, the word patina meant "shallow pan" or "dish". – Mari-Lou A May 22 at 19:07
  • 1
    "Pate" survives, I think, only in "bald pate" which is the area of your head targeted by hair regrowth scammers. – Michael Kay May 25 at 7:38

The sentence in the book you referenced "Crispin: The Cross of Lead", is this:

With a sweep of his hand, he snatched off his hat, revealing a bald pate.

From the Cambridge English Dictionary,


= the top of a person's head

There is also scalp. Usually refers specifically to the skin, but not exclusively.

In medical jargon, vertex is the top of the skull/ head.

Crown is used for reference to fetuses in the womb. For example:

crown-rump length or length of the unborn fetus measured during an ultrasound.

  • 1
    But "reference to fetus's what?"... I need to know. I'm on tenterhooks to find out! – Nigel Touch May 21 at 15:28
  • @NigelTouch - corrected – AndyT May 22 at 10:46
  • 2
    @NigelTouch: this is why I'll never spend to much time here, its full of pedants who's only goal seems to be looking clever. Kudos for you're comment however, it's construction is flawless :-) – user45532 May 23 at 1:58

A tonsure is both the name of certain holy orders' haircut style, as well as the exposed top of the head resulting from that haircut.

Perhaps it was fontanelle? That is where the 'soft spot' in a babies skull is located.

If you are looking to be somewhat novel with language — cf. etymology of ‘suspicious’ anywhere but Wiktionary, where it is seriously deficient, — then you could consider


In most dialects which I've encountered, a ‘cap’ is any style of shallow hat. Most etymological histories surmise a derivation from various words which are paronymic with the Latin ‘caput’ i.e. ‘head’.

Viz. e.g.

the cap of your head.

If your story occurs in the future, it may be a good way to suggest mutation of language while not being all too indecipherable.

protected by tchrist May 22 at 3:54

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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