• Head


    • enPR: hĕd, IPA: /hɛd/
    • Rhymes: -ɛd

    Alternative forms


    From Middle English hed, heed, heved, heaved, from Old English hēafod ("head; top; source, origin; chief, leader; capital"), from Proto-Germanic *haubudą ("head"), from Proto-Indo-European *kauput-, *káput ("head"), a variant of *kapōlo ("head, bowl").


    Cognate with Scots heid, hede, hevid, heved ("head"), Old English hafola ("head"), North Frisian hood ("head"), Dutch hoofd ("head"), German Haupt ("head"), Swedish huvud ("head"), Icelandic höfuð ("head"), Latin caput ("head"), Sanskrit कपाल (kapāla, "skull"), Hindi कपाल (kapāl, "skull"), and (through borrowing from Sanskrit).



    (countable and uncountable; plural heads)
    1. (countable) The part of the body of an animal or human which contains the brain, mouth, and main sense organs.
      Be careful when you pet that dog on the head; it may bite.
      • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, Mr. Pratt's Patients Chapter 8, Afore we got to the shanty Colonel Applegate stuck his head out of the door. His temper had been getting raggeder all the time, and the sousing he got when he fell overboard had just about ripped what was left of it to ravellings.
      1. (people) To do with heads.
        1. Mental or emotional aptitude or skill.
          The company is looking for people with good heads for business.
          He has no head for heights.
        2. Mind; one's own thoughts.
          This song keeps going through my head.
          • 1935, George Goodchild, Death on the Centre Court Chapter 1, “Anthea hasn't a notion in her head but to vamp a lot of silly mugwumps. She's set her heart on that tennis bloke...whom the papers are making such a fuss about.”
        3. A headache; especially one resulting from intoxication.
          • 1888, Rudyard Kipling, ‘Thrown Away’, Plain Tales from the Hills, Folio Society 2005 edition, page 18,he took them seriously, too, just as seriously as he took the ‘head’ that followed after drink.
        4. A headdress; a covering for the head.
          a laced head;   a head of hair
        5. An individual person.
          Admission is three dollars a head.
        6. (animals) To do with heads.
          1. (uncountable, w, Measure word, measure word for livestock and game) A single animal.
            200 head of cattle and 50 head of horses
            12 head of big cattle and 14 head of branded calves
            at five years of age this head of cattle is worth perhaps $40
            a reduction in the assessment per head of sheep
            they shot 20 head of quail
          2. The population of game.
            we have a heavy head of deer this year;  planting the hedges increased the head of quail and doves
          3. The antlers of a deer.
      2. (countable) The topmost, foremost, or leading part.
        What does it say at the head of the page?
        • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, Mr. Pratt's Patients Chapter 10, Men that I knew around Wapatomac didn't wear high, shiny plug hats, nor yeller spring overcoats, nor carry canes with ivory heads as big as a catboat's anchor, as you might say.
        1. The end of a table.
          1. The end of a rectangular table furthest from the entrance; traditionally considered a seat of honor.
            During meetings, the supervisor usually sits at the head of the table.
          2. (billiards) The end of a pool table opposite the end where the balls have been racked.
        2. (countable) The principal operative part of a machine or tool.
          1. The end of a hammer, axe, golf club, or similar implement used for striking other objects.
          2. The end of a nail, screw, bolt, or similar fastener which is opposite the point; usually blunt and relatively wide.
            Hit the nail on the head!
          3. The sharp end of an arrow, spear, or pointer.
            The head of the compass needle is pointing due north.
          4. (lacrosse) The top part of a lacrosse stick that holds the ball.
          5. (music) A drum head, the membrane which is hit to produce sound.
            Tap the head of the drum for this roll.
          6. A machine element which reads or writes electromagnetic signals to or from a storage medium.
            The heads of your tape player need to be cleaned.
          7. (computing) The part of a disk drive responsible for reading and writing data.
          8. (automotive) The cylinder head, a platform above the cylinders in an internal combustion engine, containing the valves and spark plugs.
        3. The foam that forms on top of beer or other carbonated beverages.
          Pour me a fresh beer; this one has no head.
        4. (engineering) The end cap of a cylindrically-shaped pressure vessel.
        5. (British, geology) Deposits near the top of a geological succession.
        6. (medicine) The end of an abscess where pus collects.
        7. (music) The headstock of a guitar.
        8. (nautical) A leading component.
          1. The top edge of a sail.
          2. The bow of a vessel.
        9. (British) A headland.
        10. (social, countable) A leader or expert.
          1. The place of honour, or of command; the most important or foremost position; the front.
            The king sat at the head of the table.
            • Joseph Addison (1672-1719)an army of fourscore thousand troops, with the duke Marlborough at the head of them
          2. Leader; chief; mastermind.
            I'd like to speak to the head of the department.
            Police arrested the head of the gang in a raid last night.
            • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, Mr. Pratt's Patients Chapter 7, “I don't know how you and the ‘head,’ as you call him, will get on, but I do know that if you call my duds a ‘livery’ again there'll be trouble. It's bad enough to go around togged out like a life saver on a drill day, but I can stand that 'cause I'm paid for it. What I won't stand is to have them togs called a livery....”
          3. A headmaster or headmistress.
            I was called into the head's office to discuss my behaviour.
          4. (music, slang) A person with an extensive knowledge of hip hop.
            Only true heads know this.
          5. A significant or important part.
            1. A beginning or end, a protuberance.
              1. The source of a river; the end of a lake where a river flows into it.
                The expedition followed the river all the way to the head.
              2. A clump of seeds, leaves or flowers; a capitulum.
                Give me a head of lettuce.
                • 2013, David Van Tassel, Lee DeHaan, Wild Plants to the Rescue, Plant breeding is always a numbers game....The wild species we use are rich in genetic variation, .... In addition, we are looking for rare alleles, so the more plants we try, the better. These rarities may be new mutations, or they can be existing ones that are neutral—or are even selected against—in a wild population. A good example is mutations that disrupt seed dispersal, leaving the seeds on the heads long after they are ripe.
                1. An ear of wheat, barley, or other small cereal.
              3. (anatomy) The rounded part of a bone fitting into a depression in another bone to form a ball-and-socket joint.
              4. (nautical) The toilet of a ship.
                I've got to go to the head.
              5. (in the plural) Tiles laid at the eaves of a house.
              6. A component.
                1. (jazz) The principal melody or theme of a piece.
                2. (linguistics) A morpheme that determines the category of a compound or the word that determines the syntactic type of the phrase of which it is a member.
            2. Headway; progress.
              We are having a difficult time making head against this wind.
            3. Topic; subject.
              We will consider performance issues under the head of future improvements.
            4. (uncountable) Denouement; crisis.
              These isses are going to come to a head today.
              • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)Ere foul sin, gathering head, shall break into corruption.
              • Joseph Addison (1672-1719)The indisposition which has long hung upon me, is at last grown to such a head, that it must quickly make an end of me or of itself.
            5. (fluid dynamics) Pressure and energy.
              1. A buildup of fluid pressure, often quantified as pressure head.
                Let the engine build up a good head of steam.
              2. The difference in elevation between two points in a column of fluid, and the resulting pressure of the fluid at the lower point.
              3. More generally, energy in a mass of fluid divided by its weight.
            6. (slang, uncountable) Fellatio or cunnilingus; oral sex.
              She gave great head.
            7. (slang) The glans penis.
            8. (slang, countable) A heavy or habitual user of illicit drugs.
              • 1936, Lee Duncan, Over The Wall, DuttonThen I saw the more advanced narcotic addicts, who shot unbelievable doses of powerful heroin in the main line – the vein of their arms; the hysien users; chloroform sniffers, who belonged to the riff-raff element of the dope chippeys, who mingled freely with others of their kind; canned heat stiffs, paragoric hounds, laudanum fiends, and last but not least, the veronal heads.
              • 1968, Fred Davis
              • 2005, Martin Torgoff, Can't Find My Way Home, Simon & Schuster, page 177,The hutch now looks like a “Turkish bath,” and the heads have their arms around one another, passing the pipe and snapping their fingers as they sing Smokey Robinson's “Tracks of My Tears” into the night.
            9. (obsolete) Power; armed force.



    Usage notes

    To give something its head is to allow it to run freely. This is used for horses, and, sometimes, figuratively for vehicles.

    Full definition of head



    1. Of, relating to, or intended for the head.
    2. Foremost in rank or importance.
      • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, The Mirror and the Lamp Chapter 19, At the far end of the houses the head gardener stood waiting for his mistress, and he gave her strips of bass to tie up her nosegay. This she did slowly and laboriously, with knuckly old fingers that shook.
    3. the head cook
    4. Placed at the top or the front.
    5. Coming from in front.
      head sea;   head wind



    • (coming from in front) tail


    1. (transitive) To be in command of. (See also head up.)Who heads the board of trustees?to head an army, an expedition, or a riot
    2. (transitive) To strike with the head; as in soccer, to head the ball
    3. (intransitive) To move in a specified direction.We are going to head up North for our holiday. We will head off tomorrow. Next holiday we will head out West, or head to Chicago. Right now I need to head into town to do some shopping.I'm fed up working for a boss. I'm going to head out on my own, set up my own business.How does the ship head?
    4. (fishing) To remove the head from a fish.The salmon are first headed and then scaled.
    5. (intransitive) To originate; to spring; to have its course, as a river.
      • AdairA broad river, that heads in the great Blue Ridge.
    6. (intransitive) To form a head.This kind of cabbage heads early.
    7. To form a head to; to fit or furnish with a head.to head a nail
    8. To cut off the top of; to lop off.to head trees
    9. (obsolete) To behead; to decapitate.
    10. To go in front of; to get in the front of, so as to hinder or stop; to oppose; hence, to check or restrain.to head a drove of cattle; to head a person; the wind heads a ship
    11. To set on the head.to head a cask

    Derived terms


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