braid or plait / french braid

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Zvonda, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. Zvonda Senior Member

    Czech Republic, Czech
    Is there any difference in braid or plait referring to hairstyle? I am thinking how to translate a sentence into English: My daughter wears braids (or plaits)?
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    No, they are synonymous. The difference is that many, many people would never have heard of "plait" because its use has fallen out of favour.
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    It depends whether you are translating for an AmE or BrE audience.

    "Plaits", I think, would still be more usual than "braids" in BrE.
  4. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Oh definitely, for me anyhow. I wouldn't be sure what "braids" were - I had a feeling they were similar to "plaits" but wouldn't have known they were synonymous.
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Funny, I wouldn't know what a "plait" is -- I certainly have never heard the word said, and have only seen it in writing from British sources.

    I think most Americans, upon being told that a girl wore her hair in a plait, would think the word that was said was "plate", and would wonder why a girl would put her hair in a dish...
  6. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    As you see, there is really no difference between them, except the common language :) Having lived in both places I knew one was BrE and the other was AmE. The surprise to me was how clear cut the different usage is, with speakers of the one never having heard of the word used in the other.
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    it doesn't sound like "plate":(

    It rhymes with "flat"...
  8. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Yes, funny old world!:) I wonder if women, or rather I suppose I should just say people, who might think of plaiting their hair might have a clearer idea than me about just what "braids" are. If I had had to guess I would have said they were like plaits but thicker, for some reason. Just for the information of those who may not be sure, "plait" is pronounced to rhyme with "flat".
  9. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    I have always understood ‘plaits’ to be English and ‘braids’ to be Celtic or American hairstyles.

    Furthermore I’ve always assumed (for no reason that I can lay a finger on) that plaits were worn loose whereas braids were pinned up... Might that have something to do with the difference?

    Loob? You should know!
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
  10. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    Braids don't have to be pinned up, at least in the US. I realize I have never heard anyone even say the word "plait" although I have read it in books. I had no idea it was in wide use in BrE.
  11. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Merriam-Webster on-line shows that as the second pronunciation; the first pronunciation is a homophone of "plate". My old Webster's New International also shows the word as rhyming with "plate", but indicates that in the British Isles one will hear "plat". As noted, I have never heard the word spoken.

    For those unfamiliar with "braids", all of these hairstyles are types of "braids":
  12. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Well this thread is just full of surprises!:) I would also imagine someone walking around with a plate on her head if I heard it pronounced like that.
  13. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Merriam-Webster is, I reckon,<eek> wrong!

    I can't imagine anyone producing "plait" as "plate":eek:

    Let's see if any foreros do...:)
  14. lablady

    lablady Senior Member

    Central California
    English - USA
    All right, I'll add to the controversy. :)

    I am familiar with "plait", though I usually use "braid". I have heard and used "plait" pronounced to rhyme with "plate". If the context is doing its job properly, it should tell you that "plait" is not a dish. :D

    American Heritage Dictionary, and both agree with Merriam-Webster.

    OK, I'll go back to my corner now.
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Plaits - pronounced plats.

    The model above (WMPG) also knows about braids - as shown in GWB's third and fifth links - those with braid in their title :) She would call that braiding, though she would describe it, if asked, as tiny plaits.

    (OED notes only plat as the BE pronunciation.)
  16. Cypherpunk Senior Member

    Springdale, AR
    US, English
    Well, here's one more tick for the 'plate' pronunciation. I grew up in Oklahoma, where it is very traditional for the Native American girls and women to braid their hair, but the much older women (likely educated in the government schools of the early twentieth century) often referred to a girl's hair being 'in plaits' or saying that it 'was plaited'.

    I should add that that's the only place I've ever heard the word, and I suspect it's no longer in use, as none of the younger people used the word.
  17. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    While it might be humorous to walk around with plates on your head, it would be positively painful to have brads in your scalp :)
  18. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    As the old spelling was pleyt or pleit, I suspect that in pronouncing this word to rhyme with plate AE is being, as is common, the more conservative and old-fashioned branch of English.
  19. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    It is "plat" in AusE as well (and much more commonly used than "braid".)

    EDIT: That is, of course, it's pronounced "plat", not spelled "plat". :)
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  20. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Plait is the normal word in Singapore, and pronounced the rhyme with flat. I know this because my daughter's school requires her hair to be plaited - English plaits or French plaits (would Americans talk about 'English braids' and 'French braids'?). (Everyone has to as soon as her hair touches her collar.) We might also occasionally use pigtail informally.
  21. katie_here Senior Member

    It's funny really. Growing up, people who had this hairstyle had "plaits" but in the 90's my daughter asked to have her hair braided and this was the style

    It's basically the same thing, three stands of hair crossed over each other in turn.

    I do believe though that braids has come from the hairstyle worn by women (and men) with african style hair and adopted by women (and men) with european style hair.

    There is also a type of bread product that is plaited. It's called a "plait" and not a "braid".
  22. LnGwStX Member

    English, USA
    Wow, what a discussion! My granny was from the south (meaning southern Unites States), and she called them plaits, and pronounced it 'plate', but my usually mom called them braids. I thought, as did johndot, that "plates" were pinned up, because that's how my granny did my hair, and braids were down, because that's how my mom did them. I never really thought about it in years, but I had the same sort of division in my head. Funny. But yes, in the US, nobody calls them plaits anymore, except really old southern ladies. Braids, if you mean the standard three-strand version, and french braids if you mean the more complex, braided-to-the-head type, and my mom did a thing she called fish-tailing, which had four strands and looked very pretty. Then there is the whole repertoire of designs that my sister learned to do with her biracial daughter's hair...we call them all braids, but there are cornrows and pixies and box braids and a whole slew of other things that are all known as braids, some of which don't actually involve any braiding. But I've never heard anyone besides my granny say "plait". Of course, I live in the southwest, and I'm more likely to hear "trenza" than anything. :)
  23. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    In summary, the above discussion sounds to me like this (based on what people have reported rather than dictionary entries) -

    "Plait" is the usual word in BE, although the younger generation may know "braid". If they do they may not use it as completely synonymous of "plait".
    "Braid" is the usual word in AE, although the older generation may use "plait".
    "Plait" is pronounce "plate" by those AE speakers who use it and "plat" by everyone else.
  24. Paige! New Member

    Near London
    British English
    Nah. Everyone here in england uses 'plait' not 'braid'. I've lived in London, up north and now down south and nobody has ever said braid at my school, it's always plait. I originally thought that a 'braid' was when you plaited your hair with those weird colourful strings and beads. I asked my friends and they didn't really know what a 'braid' was, I had to look it up :)
  25. margiemarz Member

    It was plaits (plats) when I was young. Also pigtails. Now the youngsters say braids.
  26. LnGwStX Member

    English, USA
    I use 'pigtails' specifically for two ponytails, ususally one on each side of the head. If I also braid the pigtails, I would say "two braids" or "braided pigtails".

    In my vocabulary, a French braid is the one that starts high on the head and is secured to the head by adding more sections as you move downward. An "English" braid (as someone else called it) would, I suppose, be anything that is not a French braid, but I would just generically call it a braid. In my region (Southwest) we do not use plait at all.

    I live in a fairly multi-cultural area, so there are lots of cultural varieties of braids here, but it is mostly all referred to as "braiding". There is a line between braids and dreadlocks (dreads are made by twisting the hair, not braiding it, for coarser/kinkier hair types, and braiding loosely and ratting for finer/smoother hair types), but the smaller, neater dreads are sometimes called braids (mostly by people who aren't culturally aware, but sometimes within the culture that typically wears them).
  27. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
  28. khere New Member

    English - Australian
    In Australia, we refer to both plaits and braids but distinguish between the two - braids are what others would call a 'French' brain where the hair is woven close to the head, and more sections are added as you go. Plaits are what you have when you have three sections woven together without any of it being 'secured to the head' as such. Doesn't make any difference whether the plaits/braids are pinned up or down.

    So, in my experience:
    Plaited hair
    Braided hair
  29. grubble

    grubble Senior Member

    South of England, UK
    British English
    So Zvonda the answer is straightforward.

    If you are speaking to an American audience you should say "braids" or "braided"

    If you are speaking to an English, Australian, etc. audience you should say "plaits" (pron. platts) or "plaited" (pron, platted)

    Note: I wrote this before seeing khere's contribution.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2010
  30. LnGwStX Member

    English, USA
    Interesting. I've never heard of bunches, and most of that is not how I use pigtails/ponytails/braids. I don't use plaits at all, but my grandmother did, and apparently she pronounced it funny.

    This right here is why languages fascinate me. For every word we have that is mutually understandable, we have five more that are totally unique to our country, region, state, city, or even neighborhood. It always amazes me that people ever understand each other at all.
  31. djmc Senior Member

    English - United Kingdom
    To me (BE) plaits and plaiting is of hair. There would be three bunches of hair which would be woven together. If I talked of braiding it would be of strands of wool or cotton which had been decoratively woven together but there would be more than three strands or groups of strands and the end result would be a sort of flat ribbon.
  32. dawoman305 New Member

    In the African American community a braid is usually attached to the scalp while a plait is usually loosely hung from the scalp
  33. margiemarz Member

    I'm from Baltimore Maryland. We used the word plaits (pronounced plats) for "pigtails" - i.e., braided three strand plaits. It's all very confusing as usage varies from place to place.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  34. AnnaOrganic New Member

    Actually there is a difference.
    Plait is pronounced plat like flat.
    normally you plait girls hair and braid horses hair.

    The difference is that a plait takes 3 sections of hair and plaits them (left to middle, right to middle, left to middle etc).
    A braid can take in additional pieces of hair and continue braiding.

    Plaits are a simple form, Braids can be more complex.

    In american english the term plait has been dropped with the generic braid being used for both simple and complex forms.

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