Dark-complected vs dark-skinned

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Xavier da Silva, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. Xavier da Silva Senior Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    Hello everyone,

    I'd like to know if "dark-complected" and "dark-skinned" are both commonly used nowdays. Are they polite expressions? Which one is more recommended?


    Ronaldo is dark-skinned. [ = He has dark skin.]
    Ronaldo is dark-complected. [ = He has dark skin.]

    Thank you very much in advance!
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I've come across -complected in the past, Xavier, but only in writing and only on extremely rare occasions. I wouldn't recommend that.
    Dark-skinned is fine by me. If it's already been established that skin colour is meant, you can just use dark on its own:
    Jeremy has very fair skin but both his parents are quite dark.

    There are umpteen other ways to talk about people's skin colour, of course, this being one of those areas of the language that the Political Correctness Police hover over like so many vultures.
  3. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    I had never heard of "dark-complected" before now. However, xxxx has a dark complexion is fairly common.
  4. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    A dark complexion is what a white person has: an Italian or Greek, for example. Dark skin is (normally, I suppose) what an African or New Guinean has, though in the right context it could also mean a dark complexion - such as when a beauty consultant is discussing what colours suit you.

    And as others have said, throw away 'complected'. It's not a living word.
  5. kitenok Senior Member

    Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated. As the WordReference dictionary suggests, it is North American (link). To say someone is "dark-complected" here is not as common as saying the person "has a dark complexion," but it is used.
  6. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    In my experience it's a corruption of "complexioned" by the poorly educated. Don't use it.
  7. kitenok Senior Member

    For an alternative viewpoint, see the Merriam-Webster Dictionary discussion of usage (link): "Not an error, nor a dialectal term, nor nonstandard—all of which it has been labeled...."
  8. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Mr Graham refers here to "complected". I agree. I also thought it tended to be regional, but the American Heritage Dictionary's usage note for the word (which confirms that it's a "back-formation" from complexion) denies that, saying that it has been used all over the US. (AHD is online as thefreedictionary.com, but I'm not sure if usage notes are included.)

    The Dictionary of Americanisms (which isn't online) calls it a colloquialism and records its earliest use in print as the year 1806; Lewis of the Lewis & Clark expedition observed that the people of one Indian tribe appeared "lighter complected" than those of another.

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