AskDefine | Define ponytail

Dictionary Definition

ponytail n : a hair style that draws the hair back so that it hangs down in back of the head like a pony's tail

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • (US) /ˈpoʊniˌteɪl/


  1. A hairstyle where the hair is pulled back and tied into a single "tail" which hangs down behind the head.

Related terms



Extensive Definition

"Ponytails" redirects here. For the girl group, see The Poni-Tails.
A ponytail is a style of arranging hair to resemble the tail of a pony. It gets its name from its resemblance to the undocked tail of a horse or pony. A single ponytail is most commonly gathered at the center back of the head or the base of the neck. Depending on fashions, it may also be worn toward one side of the head (over one ear), or on the very top of the head (allowing the hair to fall down the back or one side of the head).
If the hair is divided into two symmetrical ponytails, they are bunches or pigtails. If the hanging section is plaited instead of left to fall free, it is called a braid or plait rather than a ponytail.

Ponytails on women

Historically in the Western world, the ponytail has been considered a very informal hairstyle for grown women, who were expected to maintain more elaborate or less visible coiffures. During the Georgian period, for example, an Englishwoman might consider a ponytail to be suitable for the boudoir, but not for going about in public. Today, women commonly wear their hair in ponytails in informal or office situations, but are still likely to choose a more elaborate style for a formal occasion.
However, ponytails have always been popular with school-aged girls for the style's ease, as a young girl can tie back her own hair long before she has learned how to plait it. A ponytail also displays the flowing hair that has been traditionally associated with youth, especially in eras when married women were expected to completely cover their hair or at least wear it "up" in a chignon or similar formation.

Ponytails on men

In the second half of the 18th century, most men in Europe and North America wore their hair long and tied back into what we would now describe as a ponytail, although it was sometimes gathered into a silk bag rather than allowed to hang freely. At that time, it was commonly known by the French word for "tail", queue. The hairstyle was mandatory in all European armies until the early 1800s, after most civilians had stopped wearing queues. The British Army was the first to dispense with it, and by the end of the Napoleonic Wars most armies had changed their regulations to make short hair compulsory.
"Queue" was also the word used to refer to the waist-length pigtail which the ruling Manchus made Han Chinese men wear during the Qing Dynasty in China.
During the 19th century and much of the 20th, Western men continued to wear their hair much shorter than women, making male ponytails impossible. In the 1960s, long hair returned as a fashion trend for young men, some of whom wore it in ponytails instead of in the loose, flowing style favored by most hippies.
In the late 1980s, a short ponytail was seen as an edgy, "in-your-face" look for men who wanted to stand out from the crowd while keeping most of their hair flat and functional. Steven Seagal's ponytail in "Marked for Death" is an example of such. Men who wear their hair long, or sometimes in mullets, now frequently tie it back into a ponytail, but avoid the top- or side-of-the-head variants.

Practical considerations

Ponytails are often worn by long-haired athletes to keep hair out of their eyes and to avoid trapping sweat against the neck. Persons donating their hair to charity organizations such as Locks of Love usually gather it into a ponytail to cut off above the elastic holder, allowing the hair to be tidily handled as a single whisk. However, when repeatedly worn over time, very tight ponytails may lead to a form of baldness known as Traction alopecia.
ponytail in German: Pferdeschwanz
ponytail in Spanish: Coleta
ponytail in French: Queue de cheval
ponytail in Dutch: Paardenstaart (haardracht)
ponytail in Japanese: ポニーテール
ponytail in Finnish: Poninhäntä
ponytail in Swedish: Hästsvans (frisyr)
ponytail in Chinese: 马尾辫
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