Ginger isn’t a Swear Word

I’ve had ginger hair for nearly 34 years and it took me a while to be comfortable with my hair colour. I had to grow into it, get to know it and appreciate it for what is was – a pretty big part of being me.

Throughout those 34 years I have heard my hair, and other similar hair colours, being referred to as so many different things – anything from auburn to titian to strawberry blonde. Yet, I have never heard a ginger person refer to themselves as auburn. I have heard ginger people jokingly say they’re strawberry blonde but most of the time ginger people will refer to themselves as ginger, someone with red hair, a redhead. When a form says ‘hair colour’ they wouldn’t write auburn or titian. They’d write ginger.

But, there have been so many times when people who aren’t ginger have referred to my hair or LP’s hair as auburn or titian – meaning brown with a hint of red or the very darkest reddy brown. Neither auburn or titian are right to describe actual ginger hair. Ginger hair is purely that – ginger.

So why don’t people just say ginger?

I shout ginger from the rooftops and maybe it comes down to that song about how only a ginger can call a ginger ginger. But, really I know it stems from the word ‘ginger’ historically being used as a derogatory term. I’ve heard my fair share of ‘oi ginge!’ shouts when walking down the street and having fellow pupils at secondary school almost spit the word ginger at me as if it was something to be ashamed of.

But ginger isn’t something bad. It’s not negative. It’s a fact. I have ginger hair, my daughter has ginger hair and a whopping 2% of the world’s population also have ginger hair. Ginger is as much a fact as blonde or brunette yet those words are said so often and heard all the time. Blonde or brunette are things to be proud of and they are a real characteristic – yet ginger is somehow seen as something to underplay, to be quiet about and to hide behind other names that make it sound less, well, ginger.

I am fed up of ginger being seen as something bad. I’m proud of my ginger hair and I am so glad I passed the gene down to LP – who adores being ginger and thinks she’s going to be Ariel when she grows up. We are living in an age where being ginger is not only accepted but is celebrated and embraced – so why is the word ginger so hard for people with hair of a different colour to use?

Ginger isn’t a swear word. Ginger people are long past getting offended by being described as ginger and until people start saying the word with conviction we will still get called auburn, titian and other colours that we just aren’t. We are ginger and if you want to tell us about your friend with beautiful red hair or your mum with the ginger hair that you didn’t inherit – then, please, call it ginger. Don’t gloss over it with an auburn or push it into the background with a titian or a strawberry blonde. Call a spade a spade – ginger is ginger, whether you are the one with the ginger hair or not.

So please, make the word ginger part of your vocabulary. Use it in the knowledge that, said in good will, it won’t offend the majority of people. It’s not something to be shied away from, glazed over or hidden. It’s a hair colour, a fact and part of life.

Blonde, brown or ginger – they can all be said with pride.

Ginger isn't a Swear Word


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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  1. I’ve raised Ben to be proud of his ginger hair – he used to call it his “special orange hair” when he was little. He knows it makes him different and he loves that. I think as parents it’s up to us to make sure that ginger isn’t a “thing” for the next generation in perhaps the way it was when we were at school – and we can only do that by ginger people like you or Athena or Ben owning it and being proud so that there is nothing to insult.

  2. I am ginger and I love it! I remember being about 10 or 11 getting ready to go into senior school and actually being petrified of being bullied because of the color of my hair!! Crazy! Now I see it as my best asset, it is striking and I stand out from the crowd. It is true what you say, people do tiptoe around what to call our hair color, but that probably stems from childhood when kids would get bullied for being ginger and it would be used in the derogatory sense.

  3. “Ginger people are long past getting offended by being described as ginger”

    You know what? Not all of us are. Growing up a redhead in England was downright awful. I spent my entire childhood hating my hair, my skin, my face. I was bullied from my first memory until I moved to the US when I was 19. I have no good memories of it. None. It was a childhood wasted because of the bile and vitriol of others. People over here don’t judge or bully me because of it, in fact they think it’s kinda cool. But the word ginger still sends pangs of anger down my spine. Yes, it was created as an offensive term. That hasn’t changed. You say yourself that people almost spit the word ginger at you. You don’t use that kind of venom on a word that isn’t offensive. The intent is still there and by default makes it offensive. I have light red hair. I am not ginger, and I really wish that word would just go away.

    I’m finally comfortable with my hair, and that took decades, but every time I hear the word ginger, I’m that timid and crying six year old boy again.

    1. As a fellow redhead who has been hurt time and time again by the term ginger, thank you for standing up for us.
      Unlike you, I was raised here in the US, and as a child I was shunned and bullied for having red hair. Even throughout high school, there were people who refused to touch me or sit next to me because I was “a ginger with no soul who would steal theirs’ if they got too close.” They used my hair color as a vessel for their bullying.
      Now as an adult, because of my childhood, I’m still learning to live with my hair. People will stare at me and some touch my hair without asking. Some will compliment me, but I’ll cry myself to sleep when they immediately say “I love gingers.” It hurts in a way people can’t understand.

  4. People without red hair avoid saying ginger because if we do we’re unsure if you’ll appreciate it or be pissed off.

  5. Who are you to declare all redheads are over the use of the word? Any word used as an insult is offensive. Period.

    I am proud of who I am but I am not okay with derogatory origins and continued use of that word. It is steeped in negativity no matter the context.

    1. I’m sorry that you find the word ginger offensive, regardless of the context. This is obviously triggering for you and I understand how you feel. I hope one day you’ll be able to hear the word ginger and no longer take offense. The dictionary literally says ginger is a hair or fur colour, alongside the spice definition, and I hope we can all eventually see ginger as just that. An adjective.

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