Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A head of white-blond hair resembling tow.
  • n. A person with such hair.
  • n. A sandbar or low-lying alluvial island in a river, especially one with a stand of trees.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A blond person whose very pale, almost white hair resembles tow.
  • n. An alluvial deposit in a river, such as a sandbar, or a small island formed from silt, often permanent enough to have vegetation.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

tow +‎ -head

Examples

  • The towhead was a rattling big distance off, away out there in the middle of the river, but I didn't lose no time; and when I struck the raft at last I was so fagged I would a just laid down to blow and gasp if I could afforded it.

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • The watchman shot out of the place again; Ealer seized the wheel, set an engine back with power, and held his breath while the boat reluctantly swung away from a 'towhead' which she was about to knock into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico!

    Life on the Mississippi

  • The towhead was a rattling big distance off, away out there in the middle of the river, but I didn’t lose no time; and when I struck the raft at last I was so fagged I would a just laid down to blow and gasp if I could afforded it.

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • 'towhead' which she was about to knock into the middle of the Gulf of

    Life on the Mississippi, Part 3.

  • a 'towhead' which she was about to knock into the middle of the Gulf of

    Life on the Mississippi

  • His eyes are the spitting image of Jack's and, except for the fact he is a towhead, his resemblance to his famous great grandfather is striking.

    Bruce Knight - Jack London's Great Grandson

  • The boy, Theo, was a tall lanky towhead one year older than Alice.

    So Much Pretty

  • Noah was fishing off our porch with three boys on each side of him, his towhead as conspicuous as a single scoop of vanilla ice cream in a bowl of dark chocolate.

    Norman Ollestad: Father's Day: Sole Survivor Of A Plane Crash At 11 Grows Up To Teach His Son To Face His Fears

  • Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), the film’s hero, is a frail twelve year-old towhead whose meek appearance masks ferocious anger.

    Current Movie Reviews, Independent Movies - Film Threat

  • It trashed our magnetic laser net, barbed wire is useless, napalm a treat, can't evade it, can't divert it, only this little boy can stop it; big blue eyes, mustard on his T-shirt, this adorable towhead with the discount dirt bike and the horny mom; only Jeffrey Joshua and his fuzzy teddy bear, Mr. Bundy, stands between us and galactic oblivion; can he ...?

    La insistencia de Jürgen Fauth

Comments

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  • He was tall, slim-hipped, hairlessly muscled in the chest and back. towheaded and perpetually bronzed as those of Norwegian extraction can be.

    September 16, 2008

  • Ha ha ha!! Great sentence!

    I think you're right about the bucolic innocence. That's definitely been the connotation whenever I've seen the word (which isn't often, but often enough that I don't think it's completely obsolete).

    September 9, 2008

  • You're right, c_b. I think I have usually encountered this word, in its adjectival form, in the phrase "towheaded children," often in some context that implies bucolic innocence. I don't expect anyone would say, "The towheaded youth was sniffing glue under the bridge."

    September 8, 2008

  • Ah. Daisy Duck then ;-)

    September 8, 2008

  • I hear it today, but it almost always is in reference to a child or young person. I've actually never heard it in reference to anyone over 18, or even 14 for that matter.

    September 8, 2008

  • No, she's not bilabially alliterative. But then she's not really a platinum blonde, either. A true towhead has hair that is more white than yellow.

    September 8, 2008

  • How about Pamela Anderson?

    September 8, 2008

  • I heard this word a fair bit growing up in the 1960s. I had a friend with pale yellow hair who was frequently described as towheaded, especially by older folks like my grandmother. So I expect this word was more common in the first half of the 20th century and eventually gave way to the sexier, more fashionable "platinum blonde". I can't imagine Marilyn Monroe or Brigitte Bardot (were they all bilabially alliterative?) ever being described as "towheads".

    September 8, 2008

  • Never heard it.

    September 8, 2008

  • I love that you and I are the only ones to list this word, tow.

    December 7, 2006