Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


hair that grows on a man’s chin and cheeks

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun beard was inherited from Germanic and resembles similar words in other Germanic languages. It has been in use since the time of Old English.


Saturday was World Beard Day, a not entirely serious (see the first quotation below) annual celebration of beards and those who sport them. Someone who has a beard can be decscribed as bearded. Some animals have tufts of hair called beards, notably goats, and the goat gave its name to a type of small neat beard, the goatee. To leave the hair on your face to grow and form a beard is to grow a beard. Old man’s beard is the common name for several completely different plants, including a type of clematis that grows wild in the UK and many other places, and a type of lichen that grows on trees. Beard is sometimes used to refer to a man with a beard, a figure of speech known as synecdoche. Beard also has an informal figurative meaning, to refer to someone who accompanies a gay person socially so people will think they are straight. This meaning, which has been around since the 1970s, originally referred to someone who acted as a front for an illicit or illegal transaction.


“On World Beard Day, it is customary for the bearded members of a family to relax and partake in no jobs or chores. The beardless members of the family traditionally show their support by waiting on the bearded hand and foot.”

There was an Old Man with a beard, Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!– Two Owls and  Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!’
(Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense)

Related words

goatee, moustache, sideburns, whiskers

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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