What is a Widow's Peak?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A widow's peak is a distinctive hairline formation that has been accompanied with superstition since at least the 1800s, according to etymologists. A woman who has this feature has a V-shaped point at her hairline the descends into the forehead. The same feature on men is properly called a widower's peak, although some people still refer to it as a widow's peak. When a woman who has this feature stands in front of a mirror and pulls her hair away from her forehead, she will clearly have a “V” of hair above her forehead.

A widow's peak is a distinctive V-shaped point at a person's hairline that descends into the forehead.
A widow's peak is a distinctive V-shaped point at a person's hairline that descends into the forehead.

Origins of the Name

There are several explanations for the origins of the term “widow's peak,” which emerged around the 1830s. Some people believe that the term reflects a superstition that women who have this physical feature outlive their husbands. This superstition might be linked to the fact that as a person ages, his or her hairline often recedes, making an unusual hairline more prominent or creating the hint of a peak in a woman who does not actually have one.

The widow’s peak hairline is defined by a sharp point at the center of the hairline along the forehead.
The widow’s peak hairline is defined by a sharp point at the center of the hairline along the forehead.

Another explanation for the origin of the phrase suggests that it might be related to the mourning caps worn as early as the 1500s. A mourning cap, also called a Mary Stuart Cap, is a cap that features a very distinctive triangular fold of cloth in the middle of the forehead, creating a sort of artificial widow's peak. People who believe this explanation for the origins of the phrase suggest that people connected the physical feature with the headgear.

Despite the superstition, a widow's widower's peak is no prediction of how long a spouse will live. It simply is a dominant genetic trait that can be seen in people of all ages and from all backgrounds around the world. In fact, some people find this hairline aesthetically pleasing, and they might choose to style their hair in a way which emphasizes this genetic feature.

Appropriate Hairstyles

There are certain hairstyles that can help accentuate or conceal a widow's or widower's peak. To de-emphasize this type of hairline, the hair can be parted on the side, avoiding straight-cut or center-parted hair. Layered styles that bring the hair forward across the forehead, framing the face can help conceal a widow's peak. Spiky bangs also can do this, and strategic highlights can be good.

To highlight a widow's peak, evenly cut, shoulder-length hair and no part can be worn. A stylist will know which hairstyles go best with a particular face shape.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have a widows peak and not to sound like a jerk, also have a beautiful, full head of very curly hair. My dad is 74 years old and has a widows peak and still has a full head of hair. I was always told it was a sign of beauty of the hair.


i can't tell if my hairline is receding or if it is just my widows peak. it's making an M shape. does anyone have any pictures of what it should look like?


I have a widow's peak and I love it. I wanted to get rid of it but I'm so glad I didn't! I love it and I'm glad that's what God gave me.


rakshanda: I wore mine side-part for a long time but if you have a big forehead this can make it look too high on one side, so I started going middle part and using the hair to comb over the high sides-kind of hippie style, it looks really pretty. when I middle part and do it curly you can't even see the widow's peak.

If you have curly hair, you can put big rollers in the sides to smooth the waves and get some body -- just make sure you style the roots low to cover the hairline. good luck girl!


Can you have a partial widow's peak?


I hate my widows peak. Thanks for the help. I needed to know what hair style will make it more obvious. (Y) x


Widow peaks are hairlines. Nothing more, nothing less.


Are we a world of people who have to always read something into everything? It is just a hair line everyone -- nothing else.


I can't believe you would try to disguise a widows peak with a hairstyle. I have had one for over 30 years and never even thought twice about it. I have always heard a widows peak was a sign of intelligence over the spouse. If family tradition reigns true (male/female), it is.


My face is diamond shaped. I have curly wavy hair which has a widow's peak. What style should I wear?

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