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WHAT IS YOUR BRAID LANGUAGE? 16 terms for 3 styles

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

It often leaves me puzzled when a potential client would ask ‘What does it cost to do braids or What does it cost to do rastas or what does it cost to do lines or what does it cost to do... my hair?

Like really can you give me some more information, please?

It usually takes me a few minutes to sort my thoughts because apart from not knowing the specifics of their requests, I did not associate some of the terms with hair-braiding.

Hair braiding is a form of art and can not be exactly duplicated. Danelle

In my neck of the woods, the first hair-style in the gallery below is known as 'Braids' because they have extensions. The same style without extensions is called 'plaits'. The second image, the style is known as cornrows or cane-rows and if we want to get even more specific... invisible cornrows because of how it is started. And the last style in the gallery is rastas, locks or dreadlocks.

Naively I thought the people in other parts of the woods used the same language. Surprise Surprise, they don’t.

It didn't take me long to realise there was an issue. It had never occurred to me that hair-braiding had a language until I was bombarded with these foreign terms. The terms were foreign to me because I had never heard them being used in a hair-braiding context.

Now, the hair-braiding language that we speak is a result of our nationalities, origins and the societies in which we were raised. Because the words are colloquial expressions there are no set rules across the board. Hence the differs between societies and in some case within a society. Another point to note is that some of the jargons change over time leaving some of us unaware of the changes. So, if you are a newbie to hair braiding or simply struggle with the many jargons, this one is for you. Or if you are just curious about the topic or have just bounced upon the content, it is also for you.

Disclaimer: These views are solely my option on the jargons commonly used in the realm of hair braiding. There is no official name classification for hair braids- size, techniques etc (not that I know of). Therefore, if you should come across examples presented on other blog or spaces I stand to be corrected.

Enough ‘disclaimer-ing’. If you are like me and you struggle with hair-braiding terms, it is time we decode them. Luckily for me, I have learned how to better identify the hair-braiding languages from different countries through my work with amazing people from various African countries, Caribbean islands and from the Continent of North American.

The Styles and jargons

Below are 16 jargon used to describe 3 Afro-styles. Feel free to add a term in the comment box if not included. These are terms widely used in the English speaking world.

  1. Cornrows

  2. Cane-rows

  3. Lines

  4. Ghana braids

  5. Goddess braids

  6. Dutch braids

  7. Banana braids

  8. Pencil braids

There are subtle differences in technique with some of the terms mentioned above but that will be discussed in a future blog post.

Next, we have:

  1. Triangle Braids

  2. Braids

  3. Plaits

  4. Rasters

Another distinct difference I have observed is that some people determine the size of the braid base on the sectioning while others base it on the size of the braids themselves. I will also talk about this in more detail in future posts.

And finally:

  1. Dreadlocks

  2. Rastas

  3. sisterlocks

  4. Locs

Very important to note with dreadlocks is that they can be achieved with the use of various methods. Interlocking, Palm-rolls, coil, two-strand twist, three-strand twist. This often confuses the clients, so I will definitely cover it in more detail in a blog post to come.

This is by no means a complete list, it would be impossible to identify and report them all.


I can’t help but wonder, how do you communicate with your stylist, especially if you are a new client or they are from a different country or speak a different language?

My approach

So, how can we (stylist and client) make sure we are on the same page? The reality is there is nothing we can do to change the jargon that are used in different parts of the world.

It would be next to impossible to convince a Jamaican that cornrows are really called lines or to tell a Black American that cornrow or cane-rows. Not to mention dutch braids, french braids, where did those come from?

I usually ask my clients for a picture of the style they would like to have done. That is actually the only way we can both be on the same page about what he/she expects and importantly, quote a fair price.

The problem with that is often times the clients’ own braid vocabulary is limited and they struggle to browse the internet to find the style they would like to have. But as someone rightfully said “ the Afro-style jargon is so complex we might never be able to sort it out but it comes with all the creativity around the styles” and she could not be more right, we are creative people and that is often expressed with our hairstyles and the names thereof. Keep in mind next time when you visit your stylist, take a picture of the style you want, it makes life easier for both you and her/him.

Until next time keep safe.

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