Widow's peak

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the hairline formation. For other uses, see Widow's Peak.
A young woman with a widow's peak.

A widow's peak is a V-shaped point in the hairline in the center of the forehead. Hair growth on the forehead is suppressed in a bilateral pair of periorbital fields. Without a widow's peak, these fields join in the middle of the forehead so as to give a hairline that runs straight across. A widow's peak results when the point of intersection on the forehead of the upper perimeters of these fields is lower than usual.


This photograph is of a young man with a widow's peak.
Man with a widow's peak

A widow's peak is a distinct point in the hairline in the centre of the forehead;[1] it is frequently used as an example of a dominant inherited trait,[2] although there appears to be no real evidence of this.[3] There are varying degrees of the peak.[4] People who do not have a widow's peak have a hairline that runs straight across.[4]


The term stems from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead – suggestive of the peak of a widow's hood – is an omen of early widowhood.[5] The use of peak in relation to hair dates from 1833.[6] The expression widow's peak dates from 1849.[6] The use of peak may refer to the beak or bill of a headdress, particularly the distinctive hood with a pointed piece in front – a biquoquet[7] – which widows wore as a hood of mourning dating from 1530.[6] Another explanation for the origin of the phrase suggests that it may be related to the mourning caps worn as early as the 16th century. A mourning cap or 'Mary Stuart Cap' is a cap which features a very distinctive triangular fold of cloth in the middle of the forehead, creating an artificial widow's peak. The use of peak referring to a point in the cloth covering the forehead dates to at least 1509 when it appears in Alexander Barclay’s The Shyp of Folys:

And ye Jentyl wymen whome this lewde vice doth blynde Lased on the backe: your peakes set a loft.[8]

Causes and associated syndromes[edit]

David W. Smith and M. Michael Cohen hypothesized the widow's peak hairline to be an anomaly[9] that results from a lower-than-usual point of intersection of the bilateral periorbital fields of hair-growth suppression on the forehead.[10] This can occur because the periorbital fields of hair-growth suppression are smaller than usual, or because they are more widely spaced.[10] Wide spacing also explains the association between ocular hypertelorism – that is, the eyes being abnormally far apart – and widow's peak;[10] this was suggested by findings in an unusual case of ocular hypertelorism in which surrounding scalp-hair growth was suppressed by an ectopic (displaced) eye.[9] Widow's peaks are a symptom of Donnai-Barrow syndrome, a rare genetic disorder caused by mutations in the LRP2 gene.[11] Other genetic syndromes occasionally associated with widow's peaks include Waardenburg syndrome and Aarskog syndrome.[12]

A study of women conducted by Nusbaum and Fuentefria in 2009 found that 81% had a widow's peak,[13] but it is unclear what their criteria were in this study;[3] Smith and Cohen's 1973 study on male medical students found that only 3% had widow's peaks,[9] suggesting either high variation between genders or scholarly disagreement over what constitutes a widow's peak.[3]

Notable examples[edit]

U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) sports a notable widow's peak.

A number of fictional people have a widow's peak.[14] In film this trait is often associated with a villain or antagonist;[15] Count Dracula is an example. Eddie Munster – from the television program "The Munsters" – also had this distinctive hairline.[14] Another villain depicted as having widow's peak hair is The Joker from "Batman" comic books and films. Vegeta from the Dragon Ball franchise is known for his widow's peak.[14] Hannibal Lecter is described as having one in the novels that feature his story. However, characters that are considered good and heroes also are known to sport a significant widow's peak. Superman is the best known superhero example of it, although in his real identity he disguises it with a curl to cover any identifying resemblance to his Rockwell like persona, Clark Kent.

A notable fictional protagonist character with this iconic feature is pulp fiction hero Doc Savage,[16] from which the creators of Superman had borrowed many distinctive elements in its creation, included this hair trait.

Notable real life people with natural widow's peaks include actors Leonardo DiCaprio,[17][18] John Travolta,[17] Grace Kelly,[17] Blake Lively,[17][18] Marilyn Monroe,[19] and perhaps the best known of all, Elvis Presley,[20] as well as politicians Paul Ryan,[21][22] Ronald Reagan,[22] and Andrew Jackson.[22]


  1. ^ "Dominant and Recessive Traits". Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Human Traits: autosomal". Introductory Biology I Lab Projects. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c McDonald, John H. (2011-12-08). "Myths of Human Genetics: Widow's peak: The myth". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  4. ^ a b Dougherty, Kristiann (September 12, 2007). "Genetics – widow's peak". Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Expressions & Sayings:W. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ Randle Cotgrave (1776). A French and English dictionary. Anthony Dolle (Golden Ball). Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  8. ^ Wilton, David. Wordorigins.org. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Smith, D.W.; Cohen, M.M. (November 17, 1973). "Widow's Peak Scalp-Hair Anomaly and its Relation to Ocilar Hyperthelorism". The Lancet 302 (7838): 1127. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(73)90939-2. 
  10. ^ a b c Hall, Judith G.; Allanson, Judith; Gripp, Karen; Slavotinek, Anne (2007). Handbook of physical measurements. Oxford medical publications. p. 336. ISBN 9780195301496. 
  11. ^ Donnai-Barrow syndrome, National Institute of Health, http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/donnai-barrow-syndrome
  12. ^ William Reardon (2008). "The Bedside Dysmorphologist". Oxford University
  13. ^ http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mythwidowspeak.html
  14. ^ a b c Redmond, J.C. (September 2, 2009). Arnold, Paul, ed. "What Causes Widow's Peak Hair?". Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ "It really was love at first bite". The Guardian (London). August 14, 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Mallory, Michael. "Lester Dent: The Man Behind Doc Savage". 
  17. ^ a b c d Dana Oliver (October 10, 2013). "23 Celebrity Widow's Peaks You Never Noticed". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Jennifer Wolfe. "Am I Turning Into My Mother? 5 Traits You Inherit From Your Mom". Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  19. ^ http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-with-widows-peaks/celebrity-lists
  20. ^ http://coolmenshair.com/2012/03/memorable-mens-hairstyles-in-movies.html
  21. ^ Feldmann, Linda (November 15, 2012). "Paul Ryan shirtless? We're more interested in his widow's peak.". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  22. ^ a b c Roberts, Roxanne; Argetsinger, Amy (April 6, 2012). "Paul Ryan’s widow’s peak: A game-changer in GOP veepstakes?". Washington Post.