A widow's peak is a distinct point in the hairline in the center of the forehead. The term widow's peak is from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead is an omen of early widowhood. This hair anomaly is a result of a lower-than-usual position of the intersection of the bilateral periorbital fields of hair-growth suppression on the forehead. In stories this trait is associated with a villain, such as in the case of Count Dracula.
A widow's peak is a distinct point in the hairline in the center of the forehead; it is a dominant inherited trait, and typically does not skip generations. There are varying degrees of the peak. People who don't have a widow's peak have a hairline that is truly straight across, almost like following a circle.
The term widow's peak is 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. Peak is the same word as pike and beak, all of which refer to something that has a projecting point. The use of peak in relation to hair dates from 1833. The expression widow's peak dates from 1849. 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 – which widows wore as a hood of mourning dating from 1530. 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.
The widow's peak hair anomaly is interpreted as being the result of a lower-than-usual position of intersection of the bilateral periorbital fields of hair-growth suppression on the forehead. This can occur because the periorbital fields of hair-growth suppression are smaller than usual, or because they are widely spaced. Wide spacing also explains the association between ocular hypertelorism and widow's peak; 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.
A number of fictional people have a widow's peak. In stories and on film this trait is associated with a villain; Count Dracula is an example. Eddie Munster – from the television program "The Munsters" – also had this distinctive hairline. Another villain depicted as having widow's peak hair is The Joker from "Batman" comic books and films. Hannibal Lecter is described as having one in the novels that feature his story. Villainous Natasha Fatale from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" has a widow's peak.
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