Detangle - does this word exist?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Harry-Potter, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. Harry-Potter

    Harry-Potter Banned

    I was looking for a word that means to comb hair in such y way to remove all the tangles in hair. I looked it up in a Polish-English dictionary and I found the word 'detangle' which unfortunately isn't found in any English dictionaries. And I checked against dictionary . com, WordReference dictionary and Merriam Webster. My question is does this word exist? If so, do you use it? If not, what word do you use to describe the action I mentioned at the beginning of this post?
  2. ESustad Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    English - (Minnesota)
    'Untangle' is the word.
  3. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Untangle is considerably more common. But I think if you're talking about combing your hair, you don't need to use either untangle or detangle. It's assumed, at least by me, that if a person combs or brushes his hair, he's untangling it.

    Cross-posted with sdgraham
  4. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Yes it is.
    No, my hair is relatively short and does not tangle. But my wife uses it.

    It is relatively recent.

    "OED: "detangle, v.

    Etymology: < de- prefix + tangle...>

    trans. To remove tangles from (hair). Also intr.
    1979 Hair Winter 47/3 Five attachments that style, shape and detangle the hair.
    2000 Herald (Glasgow) (Electronic ed.) 21 Oct., The secret with gloss is to experiment. Start by applying a tiny amount to dried, finished styles and work up to using it to detangle coarser, wet hair."
  5. Harry-Potter

    Harry-Potter Banned

    You're right. However, sometimes the situation may require to be more specific. I just thought of this situation when the hair is so tangled up that it needs a lot of effort to bring it back to the normal state. Would you still use 'comb' in this situation. If so, are you able to think of a situation when you'd choose 'untangle' over 'comb'?

    PaulQ, I worded my sentence imprecisely. I meant to write 'any English dictionaries that I checked.' :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2014
  6. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Our company makes parts from wire and certain configurations will tangle badly. We always use the term "untangle". I have never heard anyone ever use "detangle".

    Other choices include: disentangle, unravel, unsnarl, straighten out, untwist, untwine, unknot (source: Google synonyms)
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    No problem. The OED is only available by (expensive) subscription or, if you are fortunate, (me) through a library or university.
  8. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Last edited: Feb 18, 2014
  9. Susan Y Senior Member

    British English
    The verb "detangle" in relation to hair seems in common use, whether or not the dictionaries have caught up with the word. Certainly I use it regularly - "I need to detangle my hair before I wash it." For this process I use a detangler - a hair product made by Palmolive ( The label says: Get ready to detangle your hair with Palmolive Fashion Girl Detangling Spray). I also have a special detangling comb.
  10. Jasquil

    Jasquil Senior Member

    When I want to describe the hair which just is not tangled (not because of having been combed, I don't mean shiny or smooth), can I say "Your hair's untangled now, so don't ask me to comb." According to all the posts above, I take it untangled functions as a verb rather than an adjective.
  11. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I hear "untangle" more often than detangle.
  12. Jasquil

    Jasquil Senior Member

    Do you have any adjective to describe someone's hair which is not tangled without conveying the meaning that their hair has just been untangled/combed out the tangle?
  13. Only Packard has mentioned what to me is the best alternative: disentangle.
  14. sumelic Senior Member

    United States of America
    English - California
    I thought of "disentangle" when I say the title of the thread, but I feel like it's used more often when there's a sense of separating two distinct things; for some reason, I prefer "untangle" for the sense "remove tangles from hair".
  15. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    I have never heard "untangle." I've never heard detangle used as a verb either, but I have heard of detanglers.
  16. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    The company I work for manufactures wire forms in various shapes. Some shapes, like S-hooks, tangle badly. Tangled parts are so frustrating for some workers that even though they are being paid by the hour they have been known to walk off the assembly line.

    I get calls on occasion asking how best to "untangle" parts. I never hear people asking how to "detangle" parts however.

    I don't know if this is our industry's jargon or a general use word, but I suspect the latter. In any case I do hear this word and I hear it several times a year.
  17. Truffula

    Truffula Senior Member

    English - USA

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