Entries linking to blonde
of hair, "of a golden or light golden-brown color," late 15c., from Old French blont "fair, blond" (12c.), from the same source as Medieval Latin blundus "yellow," but of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Frankish *blund or another Germanic source (compare Dutch, German, Danish blond).
If it is a Germanic word, it is possibly related to Old English blonden-feax "gray-haired," from blondan, blandan "to mix" (see blend (v.)). According to Littré, the original sense of the French word was "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut," which might account for the notion of "mixed." [But Century Dictionary finds this "hardly probable."]
Old English beblonden meant "dyed," so it is also possible that the root meaning of blonde, if it is Germanic, may be "dyed," as ancient Teutonic warriors were noted for dying their hair. Du Cange, however, writes that blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus "yellow." Another guess (discounted by German etymologists), is that it represents a Vulgar Latin *albundus, from alba "white."
The word was reintroduced into English 17c. from French, and was until recently still felt as French, hence blonde (with French feminine ending) for females. Italian biondo, Spanish blondo, Old Provençal blon are said to be ultimately of Germanic origin.
Fair hair was much esteemed by both the Greeks and Romans, and so they not only dyed and gold-dusted theirs ..., but also went so far as to gild the hair of their statues, as notably those of Venus de Medici and Apollo. In the time of Ovid (A.U.C. 711) much fair hair was imported from Germany, by the Romans, as it was considered quite the fashionable color. Those Roman ladies who did not choose to wear wigs of this hue, were accustomed to powder theirs freely with gold dust, so as to give it the fashionable yellow tint. [C. Henry Leonard, "The Hair," 1879]
updated on June 11, 2017