Is "do" understood as a noun or verb in "hair do"?

Asking this in search of "to make do".

Bonus points if it can be related to German Tolle "tuft [of hair], that thing that Elvis had on his head", itself of obscure origin, surely under influence of toll "wild, great, fun".

En. dole doesn't seem to be a bad fit, either, as general as its cognates are (portion, piece, divide).

  • 3
    The phrase comes from the idiom do one's hair, which means to wash, brush, cut, and/or style (women's) hair_, often in a particular fashion. Any of these variations came to be called a "hairdo" (aka hair-do and hair do). So the ultimate source of the do is ACT do from do your hair. I wouldn't parse do here at all; it's just the last syllable of the noun hairdo. – John Lawler Mar 27 '19 at 22:29
  • Consider "do" to be a noun, in this sense. There are a few other contexts where "do" is a noun, as in "We're having a do (party) for Sandra." – Hot Licks Mar 28 '19 at 0:15
  • Make do is unrelated; it means to make the resources you have do (be sufficient) for the task in hand. – Kate Bunting Mar 28 '19 at 9:29
  • not sure if it's related to either of those words. but maybe =) – Carly Mar 28 '19 at 21:55
  • What do you mean when you write Asking this in search of "to make do"? Do you mean that you're asking this to see if it's related to "to make do"? If so, then no -- as explained in the answers, it comes from how you do your hair. Analogy: In Detroit they make cars; this year they've come out with a new make of car. – aparente001 Sep 1 '19 at 0:26

A hair-do (or hairdo) is a hairstyle. You have your hair done by a stylist and the result is a hair-do. In this case "do" is a noun.

A hairstyle, hairdo, or haircut refers to the styling of hair, usually on the human scalp. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairstyle

"do" on its own can be a noun - https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/do


It is the way your hair is done; the way you do your hair (or others, such as hairdressers, barbers, stylists do your hair). Your hair do. (It acts as a noun phrase.)

I would venture that this ambiguous application of do is related to the word's catch-all etymology, including "make," "do," or "place."

Middle English don, from Old English dōn; akin to Old High German tuon to do, Latin -dere to put, facere to make, do, Greek tithenai to place, set

Or it could refer to some goo used to style hair like 'Hair Doo' or 'Kleenex.' Who the hell knows 🙃

  • The product Hair Doo came after the hair-do. – aparente001 Sep 1 '19 at 0:22

Do is a noun from the verb "to do":

Hair do = noun + noun, thus "hair do" = A do associated with hair.

The noun and verb "do" are usually only understandable from the context but, broadly they represent some sort of action.


"I'm going to have my hair done tomorrow."

"She did her hair in a ponytail"

"Her usual hair-do is a ponytail."

Thus "do" is a utility word that, in this context, is equivalent to "to arrange/style" or "an arrangement/a style".

The following are some examples from OED to give the idea:

Do (n.) 1. a. The action of doing, or that which is done; action, business.

1988 J. Cartwright Interior viii. 90 Dreadful gas-bag... All talk and no do.

1. b. Originally English regional and nonstandard. A social event, a party; a performance or show.

1999 M. Syal Life isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee (2000) ii. 60 Red Box are having a do upstairs... You ought to call in.

1.c. Originally English regional (northern). With modifying word. An affair, occurrence, experience, or situation (of the kind specified).

1992 G. M. Fraser Quartered Safe out Here 160 I was startled to hear Grandarse..say in a grim harsh voice: ‘It's a bad do. By Christ, it's a bad do!’

  • I'd argue that all can be a pronoun and the arguments can be parsed as verbs. "everybody talks, nobody does". I'm aware of the adverbial use of all, as much as no can hardly be parsed as pronoun (instead of none, e.g.), but comparing no wiser, none the wiser it may be all... no do. Admittedly, this do no sense make in modern diction, but it would be faithful to the origin of not. Since the whole thing is a set phrase or a so called snow-clone, possibly inhereted, I cannot accept you (or the OED) resting purely on synchronic evidence. – vectory Nov 16 '20 at 9:51
  • For reference, credo reflects *-d^(h)eH- "do, set, place". That would be literally make-believe, haha. The ending should have erroded further in inherited English lexical stock though, I'm sure, but sometimes these things become reinstated by analogy (to a noun, in view of your answer, but I remain unconvinced). I didn't know that when I asked the question. – vectory Nov 16 '20 at 9:54

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