Where Does The Term Dreadlocks Come From

Have you ever wondered where the term “dreadlocks” comes from? Well, you’re in luck! In this article, I will provide you with a brief history of the origins of dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have been a popular hairstyle for centuries, but their name actually originated from the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica in the 1950s. The term “dread” refers to the reverence and fear that Rastafarians had for their hair, believing it to be a symbol of their African roots and spirituality. So, the term “dreadlocks” came to represent the unique hairstyle that is typically characterized by matted or ropelike strands of hair.

Where Does the Term Dreadlocks Come From?

Dreadlocks, also known as locks or dreads, are a type of hairstyle that involves intentionally matting or braiding hair to create long, ropelike strands. The term “dreadlocks” has an interesting history, with origins in various cultures spanning different time periods. In this article, we will explore the earliest origins and historical context of the term “dreadlocks,” covering regions such as Africa, Ancient Egypt, Hinduism and Buddhism, Rastafarianism, and even Ancient Greece. Let’s dive in and uncover the fascinating roots of this hairstyle.

Earliest Origins of Dreadlocks

The exact origins of dreadlocks can be challenging to trace, as they can be found in ancient civilizations all over the world. However, it is believed that the earliest instances of dreadlocks date back thousands of years. It is important to note that dreadlocks have had different meanings and uses throughout history, depending on the culture and region.

Historical Origins of the Term Dreadlocks

The term “dreadlocks” itself has its roots in the Rastafarian movement. Originating in the early 20th century in Jamaica, Rastafarianism was a religious and cultural movement that sought to celebrate African heritage and challenge societal norms. The term “dread” in “dreadlocks” refers to the dread or fear of a higher power rather than the negative connotation associated with fear in modern English. Rastafarians saw their hair as an expression of their identity and spirituality, and thus, the term “dreadlocks” became associated with this unique hairstyle.

Africa and the Origins of Dreadlocks

Africa is often considered the birthplace of dreadlocks, with various African cultures embracing this hairstyle for centuries. In many African societies, dreadlocks symbolize spirituality, strength, and cultural identity. They can signify a person’s tribe, social status, or religious beliefs. For instance, the Maasai people of East Africa have traditionally adorned themselves with long, thin, and intricate dreadlocks as a symbol of their warrior status and cultural heritage.

Ancient Egypt and Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks also have a significant historical presence in Ancient Egypt. Artifacts and depictions dating back to more than 4,000 years ago showcase individuals wearing dreadlocks. The ancient Egyptians associated dreadlocks with spirituality and believed that the hairstyle represented a connection to the divine. Priests and spiritual leaders often wore dreadlocks to signify their elevated status and closeness to the gods.

Dreadlocks in Hinduism and Buddhism

Dreadlocks are also prevalent in certain branches of Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, Sadhus, holy men who have renounced material possessions, often grow their hair to create dreadlocks, known as Jata or Jaṭa. For them, dreadlocks symbolize detachment from societal norms and a profound commitment to spiritual pursuits. Similarly, in Buddhism, some practitioners choose to wear dreadlocks as a symbol of their dedication to the teachings of the Buddha and their detachment from worldly desires.

Dreadlocks in Rastafarianism

As mentioned earlier, Rastafarianism played a pivotal role in popularizing the term “dreadlocks” and the associated hairstyle. Rastafarians view dreadlocks as a natural representation of their connection to Jah (God) and their African roots. This hairstyle reflects their rejection of Western standards of beauty and societal norms. Through their dreadlocks, Rastafarians embrace their African heritage and express their resistance against oppression.

Dreadlocks in Ancient Greece

While less commonly known, dreadlocks also have a historical presence in Ancient Greece. Historians have uncovered evidence of certain Spartan warriors wearing dreadlocks during battles. These warriors believed that by twisting their hair into tangled knots, they would intimidate their opponents and protect their heads from cuts and blows. The association of dreadlocks with prowess and courage was an integral part of Ancient Greek culture.

Dreadlocks in Indigenous Cultures

Dreadlocks can also be found in the indigenous cultures of various regions around the world. Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians, and certain tribes in South America have been known to wear dreadlocks. In these cultures, dreadlocks hold deep cultural and spiritual significance, often representing personal growth, wisdom, and connection to the natural world. The wearing of dreadlocks is a way to honor and preserve ancestral traditions and values.


In conclusion, the term “dreadlocks” has a rich and diverse history, originating from different cultures and time periods. From its roots in Africa and Ancient Egypt to its presence in Hinduism, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, Ancient Greece, and indigenous cultures, dreadlocks have served as a symbol of spirituality, cultural identity, resistance, and personal expression. This hairstyle continues to be embraced and celebrated today, showcasing the beauty and diversity of human culture throughout the ages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy
Accept All