We have the adjective "facial" for the noun "face", and I am wondering what the counterpart for the noun "head" is. I could not find it on Google, and ChatGPT told me "cranial" which seems a bit different from what I expected.

Thank @Stuart F for the comment! My original thought was to make a joke on myself who can have some kind of "head expressions" (corresponding to "facial expressions") because I am a bit bald.

And I am also happy to see that the vocabulary can be different in different contexts!

  • 5
    What context? Medical, cosmetic/beauty, CAM, in art, heraldry, armor, everyday language, in sports that involve the head (boxing/soccer/?)... Do you have an example sentence? (Cranial/cranium seems to refer specifically to the skull.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 10:00
  • 9
    Please don't cite those two things as having any credibility. Google just shows stuff.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:17
  • 4
    Cranial refers to the skull in particular. The "head" is everything above the neck. Please supply a context where you'd want to use the word.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 2:13
  • follicly challenged Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 1:29
  • 1
    @HippoSawrUs Thank you for this idiom!
    – Vezen BU
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 23:46

2 Answers 2


Cranial can be correct.

Your attendant will apply the facial cream and give you a cranial massage.

To use capital in that case would not be correct.

  • Cranium is anatomical

    Those bones which enclose the brain (as distinguished from those of the face and jaws); the brain-case, brain-pan, skull — OED]

  • Capital generally involves loss of the head

    Involving loss of the head or life. Of an offence, crime, etc.: punishable by death; incurring the death penalty — OED

  • Cephalic has a specific biological sense (as opposed to purely anatomical) and tends to be used in combining forms with that meaning

    Of or pertaining to the head, situated in the head; of the nature of a head. Physiology and BiologyOED

    Forming adjectives relating to a head or heads (in various senses) or skull, as cynocephalic, adj., microcephalic, adj., polycephalic, adj.ibid

Afterthought: If you used capital in "...and give you a capital massage," it would actually change the meaning completely to OED II.6.f (paywalled)

Excellent, outstanding, first-rate. Frequently as an exclamation of approval. Now somewhat dated.

  • Where did the word capital come from here?
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:18
  • 3
    @Lambie (a) Latin caput; (b) the other answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:20
  • 2
    Oh, right. Sorry. :) Yes, a head wound is a cranial wound, right?
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:23

In everyday language, the word head is often used as an attributive noun:

The masseur will apply the facial cream and give you a head rub.

Miss D. is waiting for her head transplant, so she has priority over Miss M., who merely needs a face transplant.

In more formal or academic or literary language, you could use capital, cephalic:

Marie Antoinette was not in favour of capital punishment.

Tricephalic people are superior to unicapitals.

  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your answer!
    – Vezen BU
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 11:22

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