two girls showing off hairstyles; one plait (braid), the other in two pigtails (braids)

The British say "Her hair is in a plait" (picture 1) but "Her hair is in pigtails" (picture 2).

Americans say "Her hair is in a braid" (No.1) and "Her hair is in braids" (No.2).

I love the word "pigtail" because it sounds very cute but I am not sure if it is OK to say "Her hair is in a pigtail" (No.1).

Can we say "*Her hair is in a pigtail" instead of "*Her hair is in a plait" in British English?

  • 5
    Yes, I think we can, though reference sources seem to indicate that pigtail is more often used of two plaits. Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 7:30
  • @KateBunting So you mean to say, both pigtail and pigtails refer to two plaits? Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 10:35
  • 5
    @DhanishthaGhosh No, I was answering Tom's question 'Can we say her hair is in a pigtail?' We can call a single plait a pigtail, but 'in pigtails' (two plaits) is a more common expression. Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 11:53
  • 1
    To me a pigtail is braided and contrasts with a ponytail, which is tied at the base and not braided, irrespective of number. But I am not British. Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 3:26
  • 1
    That picture is incorrect... "pigtails" is a common term in American English.
    – randomhead
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


English person here:

1 'braid' = a plait (British English)

2 'braids' = plaits / pigtails (British English)

1 non-braided hair tied up = ponytail (British English)

2 ponytails = bunches / pigtails (British English)

No, we don't call one plait a pigtail, it isn't used as a singular.

Also, I live near London and have never used the word pigtail(s) and never heard it used except on TV. I would always use the words ponytail, plait, plaits, and bunches.


All the terms you mention are in use in British and American English, but the way they are used is a little different.

In British English, a "plait" is the braiding seen in your photographs. A single "plait" would be one at the back of the head, and "plaits" would normally be two, but could be any number. We do say "braids", but this tends to describe styles with many braids, similar to dreadlocks.

Without the braiding, we tend to use the term "ponytail" to describe a single bunch of hair at the back of the head. "Pigtails" (plural) is sometimes used to describe two as in your second picture, but these may also be called "bunches".

  • I would only have used bunches for unbraided in contrast to pigtails.
    – mdewey
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 15:58
  • I suspect we use pigtail in the singular to refer to one worn by a man like the coleta traditionally worn by Spanish bullfighters.
    – mdewey
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 16:00
  • In New England, at least, a ponytail is gathered high on the back of the head, like a horse’s tail, and a george washington is gathered at the nape of the neck, as one sees in paintings from the late 18th century. Neither require the hair to be braided/plaited.
    – djs
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 23:01

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