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?

  • 2
    Yes, I think we can, though reference sources seem to indicate that pigtail is more often used of two plaits. – Kate Bunting Sep 28 '20 at 7:30
  • @KateBunting So you mean to say, both pigtail and pigtails refer to two plaits? – Dhanishtha Ghosh Sep 28 '20 at 10:35
  • 2
    @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. – Kate Bunting Sep 28 '20 at 11:53
  • @KateBunting Okay. I get it now. Thanks! – Dhanishtha Ghosh Sep 28 '20 at 11:55

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 Sep 28 '20 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 Sep 28 '20 at 16:00

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