I've just come across the pejorative term Cloth Head, and beyond pure speculation here on WordReference.com Language Forums that it's related to the term clot head.

The more familiar term is cloth-head, meaning dum-dum, dingbat, nitwit (etc. etc.). There is also a word clot, of the same meaning. I have never seen the spelling clothead before; it's either clothhead with one of the h's omitted, or it's a new combination of clot and some insult in -head, including but not limited to clothhead. So it could be pronounced either way.

But 'Cloth Head' seems to outweigh all other formulations in these Google ngrams, however that doesn't negate when cloth head is not used pejoratively. So although that seems to be the original term, I then searched on 'clot(h)headed variants. The google ngram is here.

Clothheaded still prevails, making me think that is the original, but I cannot find an original use that gives an etymology.

  • 3
    I've only encountered "cloth-head" to mean "turban-wearing", in which usage it's offensively pejorative. Never heard "clot-head" at all; "clot" meaning nitwit, yes, but not "clot-head" (or "cloth-head" with that meaning).
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 11:05
  • Also, including links without including the relevant content in the question makes it very hard to follow. Please make your question complete in itself, citing quotes correctly and linking to the original content to allow verification. Apart from making the question easier to read, links rot and you don't want to lose what's on the other end if it's important to your question.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 11:07
  • 3
    Cloth head:(informal) A stupid person. lexico.com/definition/cloth_head
    – user 66974
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 11:09
  • 1
    '[C]loth-headed guffins' is used in 'Right Ho, Jeeves' {P. G. Wodehouse; 1934} (p 100); Madame Eulalie defines the whole string as '[slang]: idiot, fool'. Apparently, "cloth-head" appears in Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. // I remember the term from 60 years ago; it was quite common colloquially. But perhaps subjectiveness is involved. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 11:25
  • 2
    @Pureferret: First cite for cloth-head in the full OED is 1927 P. G. Wodehouse, Meet Mr. Mulliner - You've forgotten it again, you old cloth-head!. Their first cite for clot-head is 1878 W. Dickinson, Words & Phrases Cumberland - Clot-heed, a stupid person. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 12:42

4 Answers 4


Glossary of Yorkshirism

Clothead – stupid person

Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

clot - A middle-class colloquialism for 'fool', but also found widely in dialects of northern England and Scotland in such forms as clothead and cloit, as well as in earlier 'blockhead' expressions as clotpoll (1609). It is often no more than a mild or friendly term of abuse, frequently with a nuance of clumsiness, as in the expression 'clumsy clot!'

Looking at clotpoll/clodpole:

Etymology clod +‎ pole (“head”)

and further clod

Etymology From Middle English clod, a late by-form of clot, from Proto-West Germanic *klott (“mass, ball, clump”). Compare clot and cloud; cognate to Dutch klodde (“rag”) and kloot (“clod”).


Laughing Boy: The engrossing Yorkshire crime series

"What do you want?" Dave asked, one leg out of the door. "Um, so something fast." "Gazelle?" "No, clothead! Cheese, salad, whatever. Something that's ready made."

Yandro 184

I figure this must be deliberate humor; nobody could be that much of a clothead, so I smiled non-committally.

A Son of Hagar, by Sir Hall Caine

"He's allus stopping short too soon," said Gubblum. "My missis, she said to me last back end, 'Gubblum,' she said, 'dusta mind as it's allus summer when the cuckoo is in the garden?' 'That's what is is,' I said. 'Well,' she said, 'dusta not think it wad allus be summer if the cuckoo could allus be kept here?' 'Maybe so,' I says; 'but easier said nor done.' 'Shaf on you for a clothead!' says she; 'nowt so simple. When you get the cuckoo into the garden, build a wall round and keep it in.' And that's what I did; and I built it middling high, too, but it warn't high enough, for, wad ye think it, one day I saw the cuckoo setting off, and it just skimmed the top of that wall by a bare inch. Now, if I'd no'but put another stone--"

  • 1
    Do any of your sources directly imply clothead -> clothhead? Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:36
  • @Pureferret no, not that I'm aware of
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:40
  • @Pureferret I just realized that your question is specifically about "cloth-head". I somehow missed that when I went down this rabbit hole based on the wordreference thread you refer to.
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:45
  • 1
    I went down the same path as @0xFEE1DEAD and found clodpole in Twelfth Night, so 1601? The ‘pole’ or poll for head is also in the word tadpole.
    – Wade B
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 15:05
  • 1
    @0xFEE1DEAD oh dear, that's a very good point. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 17:47

Possibly an extension of “clod-head” from “clod”, an old term for stupid person:


(also clod-head) a stupid person, esp. a dull-witted peasant.

  • 1599 [UK] Jonson Every Man Out of his Humour I i: This clod, a whoreson puck-fist!
  • 1605 [UK] Jonson Volpone III i: O, your parasite Is a most precious thing, dropt from above, Not bred ’mongst clods and clodpoles, here on earth.
  • 1882 [UK] Dundee Courier 27 Jan. 7/1: But we don’t a-know wot way he has gone, clodhead don’t yer see?
  • 1973 [UK] B.S. Johnson All Bull 151: It surprised me, the odd clod apart, how easy it is to achieve this [i.e. military drill].

(Green’s Dictionary of Slang)

  • 2
    How does Clod relate to Cloth? Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 15:12
  • @Pureferret - clot, clotpole (pole means head) meaning stupid person derive from clod greensdictofslang.com/entry/2pcslpi. And according to FF comment the OED see clothead as a possible origin of clothhead.
    – user 66974
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 16:09

While I doubt that the term as you hear it is from Jamaican patois, the term clot from cloth is used heavily and pejoratively there. Ras clot (claat) is literally "ass cloth", but figuratively means 'someone contemptible'. Bomba claat is used as well. Blood claat, a used tampon or sanitary pad, is a particularly strong variant.

From The Rastafarian Dictionary:

CLOT: 1. cloth, an essential part of most Jamaican bad words, such as bumbo clot, rass clot, blood clot, etc. The essence of Jamaican cursing seems to be nastiness, rather than the blasphemy or sexuality which is characteristic of the metropolitan countries; to hit or strike - from the verb "to clout"; literally means a used tampon


Chīnt in Hindi means speckled, spotted, or variegated. The name of the fabric chintz, which originated in Golconda/Hyderabad, is derived from this Hindi chīnt to describe the its typical patterned design. Source.

Meanwhile in Bangla, "mathaye chhit" is an insult that roughly translates to cloth-head (but specifically this spotted, speckled cloth). It usually connotes eccentricity rather than stupidity, though. I've grown up hearing the Bangla phrase used quite frequently and was once told that its literal translation was "cloth in your head," but I'm not able to find an online source to corroborate this.

  • 1
    But how does this relate to the etymology of the English word 'cloth-head', Deboleena? Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 18:05
  • @Edwin: I thought it might be of interest that a similar insult or phrase evolved in another language, indicating that there may be older roots to the notion of "cloth head" as a pejorative term. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 19:29
  • Please read the advice given at the Help Center, Deboleena. ELU is English-specific, and answers should be supported by references. This would certainly make an interesting 'comment' (and yes, we've all had to jump the 50-rep hurdle). Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 10:35
  • 1
    I'm new here, Edwin, but I'm definitely not worrying about any rep hurdles. Thanks for the nudging toward the guidance, which I did review briefly before posting. The Jamaican patois response was along the same lines as my post, so I am surprised at the insistence of your critique. It has also been upvoted twice, so I suppose some readers did find it useful. Finally, I did include a source where I found one and clarified how the other was difficult to find. In any case your advice is well noted for future posts. Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 13:27

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.