Printable Version
Pronunciation: dred-lahks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, plural

Meaning: A hairstyle in which the hair is twisted or twists itself into long, matted, ropelike locks associated with the Rastafarian culture.

Notes: The informal form is dreads. The adjective of today's word is dreadlocked. In Rasta creole, a bald-head is a straight person i.e., someone without dreadlocks. In the mid-16th century, many Africans managed to escape slavery to the mountainous interior of Jamaica. They built villages there and retained as much as they could of their original beliefs and traditions. From that heart, and the need to give meaning to the experience of Blacks subjugated by European colonialism and slavery in the US, the Rasta religion was born.

In Play: dreadlocksDreadlocks are a part of Rastafarian culture, biblically justified by the Nazarene laws which forbid the cutting of hair. Rastafarian beliefs stem from the African diaspora occasioned by the slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries. Rastas wear their hair uncut and uncombed as a sign of their African identity and a symbol of their religious vow of separation from the wider society. Maasai warriors also wear dreadlocks.

Word History: Dreadlocks comes from English dread "fear, or an object of awe" which, in the Rasta patois, became dread "serious" + locks "hair". Middle English dreden, a corruption of the derived verb adreden, reduced from ondrdan "to advise against, fear", is based on ond "against" + rdan "to advise". The stem here, ræd-, is akin to read and Latin ordo "order." It is cousin to German Rat "counsel" found in Rathaus "city hall". (We thank Rachel Skrlac, who lives in Bermuda, for suggesting we look into today's word without a hint of dread.)

Dr. Goodword,

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