Deeper Dive: head

Word Story Text

HEAD : we can make this easy or we can make this hard.
Let’s try to make it easy.
HEAD contains the rime -EAD, which is pronounced two ways:

There’s the


neighborhood but also the


So, this looks like another inconsistent pattern.

This is where word frequency is helpful.
Word frequency is how often a word occurs in collection of Head text or oral language.

Researchers have counted how often words appear in children’s books.
picture books
simple “I can read” type books
books used with various curricula

Also in adult texts, and in child and adult speech. Frequencies of word in Wikipedia or on Twitter.

Frequency isn’t a fixed number: it changes depending on what is being counted.

A word like TOY occurs much more often in children’s books than in adult books or on TWITTER.
So it is high frequency for children but lower frequency for adults.
BIAS is higher frequency words for adults but very low in frequency in children’s books.

Getting back to HEAD :
In books for beginning readers, the word HEAD is by far the highest frequency. All of the most common EAD words in children’s books are rhymes of HEAD . Words with the alternative pronunciation as in BEAD and PLEAD occur much less often.

You’re not obliged to teach children that EAD has two pronunciations at the outset. You can teach the HEAD -BREAD-DEAD pattern, and get to the BEAD-KNEAD-PLEAD one later, after the child has gained some basic skills and can build on that knowledge.

There’s only one problem word: READ. which is a homograph. It’s pronounced both ways. Both reed and red are common in children’s books and in oral language. So, it’s hard to avoid.

Look at the entry for READ for suggestions about instruction. READ can be taught with other common homographs such as LEAD-LED, WIND-WIND, and BOW-BOW.


"There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart." Charles Dickens

"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith." Steve Jobs

"Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses." Lao Tzu


Head over heels, where should I go?
Can't stop myself, out of control
Head over heels, no time to think
Looks like the whole world's out of sync

Been running so hard
When what I need is to unwind
The voice of reason
Is one I left so far behind
I've waited so long
So long to play this part
Then just remembered
That I'd forgotten about my heart

Head over heels, where should I go?
Can't stop myself, out of control
Head over heels, no time to think
Looks like the whole world's out of sync

"Head Over Heels" by The Go-Gos

In over his head
Head off at the past
Lost his head
Head out
Head to California
Use your head
Air head
Bed head
Head way
Head start
A head
Big head
Head over heels
Head line
Head in the clouds
Head games
head noun noun [OE. hed, heved, heaved, AS. heáfod; akin to D. hoofd, OHG. houbit, G. haupt, Icel. höfuð, Sw. hufvud, Dan. hoved, Goth. haubiþ. The word does not correspond regularly to L. caput head (cf. E. Chief, Cadet, Capital), and its origin is unknown.]

1. The anterior or superior part of an animal, containing the brain, or chief ganglia of the nervous system, the mouth, and in the higher animals, the chief sensory organs; poll; cephalon.

2. The uppermost, foremost, or most important part of an inanimate object; such a part as may be considered to resemble the head of an animal; often, also, the larger, thicker, or heavier part or extremity, in distinction from the smaller or thinner part, or from the point or edge; as, the head of a cane, a nail, a spear, an ax, a mast, a sail, a ship; that which covers and closes the top or the end of a hollow vessel; as, the head of a cask or a steam boiler.

3. The place where the head should go; as, the head of a bed, of a grave, etc.; the head of a carriage, that is, the hood which covers the head .

4. The most prominent or important member of any organized body; the chief; the leader; as, the head of a college, a school, a church, a state, and the like.
“Their princes and heads.” Robynson (More’s Utopia).

The head is of the chief sects of philosophy. Tillotson.

Your head I him appoint. Milton.
5. The place or honor, or of command; the most important or foremost position; the front; as, the head of the table; the head of a column of soldiers.
An army of fourscore thousand troops, with the duke of Marlborough at the head of them. Addison.
6. Each one among many; an individual; – often used in a plural sense; as, a thousand head of cattle.
It there be six millions of people, there are about four acres for every head . Graunt.
7. The seat of the intellect; the brain; the understanding; the mental faculties; as, a good head , that is, a good mind; it never entered his head , it did not occur to him; of his own head , of his own thought or will.
Men who had lost both head and heart. Macaulay.
8. The source, fountain, spring, or beginning, as of a stream or river; as, the head of the Nile; hence, the altitude of the source, or the height of the surface, as of water, above a given place, as above an orifice at which it issues, and the pressure resulting from the height or from motion; sometimes also, the quantity in reserve; as, a mill or reservoir has a good head of water, or ten feet head ; also, that part of a gulf or bay most remote from the outlet or the sea.

9. A head land; a promontory; as, Gay head . Shak.

10. A separate part, or topic, of a discourse; a theme to be expanded; a subdivision; as, the head s of a sermon.

11. Culminating point or crisis; hence, strength; force; height.
Ere foul sin, gathering head , shall break into corruption. Shak.

The indisposition which has long hung upon me, is at last grown to such a head , that it must quickly make an end of me or of itself. Addison.
12. Power; armed force.
My lord, my lord, the French have gathered head . Shak.
13. A head dress; a covering of the head ; as, a laced head ; a head of hair. Swift.

14. An ear of wheat, barley, or of one of the other small cereals.

15. (Bot.)
(a) A dense cluster of flowers, as in clover, daisies, thistles; a capitulum.

(b) A dense, compact mass of leaves, as in a cabbage or a lettuce plant.
16. The antlers of a deer.

17. A rounded mass of foam which rises on a pot of beer or other effervescing liquor. Mortimer.

18. pl. Tiles laid at the eaves of a house. Knight.

head is often used adjectively or in self-explaining combinations; as, head gear or head gear, head rest. Cf. head , adjective

A buck of the first head
a male fallow deer in its fifth year, when it attains its complete set of antlers. Shak.
By the head (Naut.)
See under By
Elevator head

> Feed head , etc.
See under Elevator, Feed, etc.
From head to foot
through the whole length of a man; completely; throughout.

“Arm me, audacity, from head to foot.” Shak.
head and ears
with the whole person; deeply; completely; as, he was head and ears in debt or in trouble. [Colloq.]
head fast (Naut.)
See 5th Fast.
head kidney (Anat.)
the most anterior of the three pairs of embryonic renal organs developed in most vertebrates; the pronephros.
head money
a capitation tax; a poll tax. Milton
head pence
a poll tax. [Obs.]
head sea
a sea that meets the head of a vessel or rolls against her course.
head and shoulders
(a) By force; violently; as, to drag one, head and shoulders.

“They bring in every figure of speech, head and shoulders.” Felton.
(b) By the height of the head and shoulders; hence, by a great degree or space; by far; much; as, he is head and shoulders above them.
head s or tails


head or tail
this side or that side; this thing or that; – a phrase used in throwing a coin to decide a choice, question, or stake, head being the side of the coin bearing the effigy or principal figure (or, in case there is no head or face on either side, that side which has the date on it), and tail the other side.
Neither head nor tail
neither beginning nor end; neither this thing nor that; nothing distinct or definite; – a phrase used in speaking of what is indefinite or confused; as, they made neither head nor tail of the matter. [Colloq.]
head wind
a wind that blows in a direction opposite the vessel's course.
off the top of my head
from quick recollection, or as an approximation; without research or calculation; – a phrase used when giving quick and approximate answers to questions, to indicate that a response is not necessarily accurate.
Out of one's own head
according to one's own idea; without advice or coöperation of another.
Over the head of
beyond the comprehension of. M. Arnold.
to go over the head of (a person)
to appeal to a person superior to (a person) in line of command.
To be out of one's head
to be temporarily insane.
To come or draw to a head
See under Come, Draw.
To give (one) the head


To give head
to let go, or to give up, control; to free from restraint; to give license. “He gave his able horse the head .” Shak. “He has so long given his unruly passions their head .” South.
To his head
before his face.

“An uncivil answer from a son to a father, from an obliged person to a benefactor, is a greater indecency than if an enemy should storm his house or revile him to his head .” Jer. Taylor.
To lay head s together
to consult; to conspire.
To lose one's head
to lose presence of mind.
To make head


To make head against
to resist with success; to advance.
To show one's head
to appear. Shak.
To turn head
to turn the face or front.

“The ravishers turn head , the fight renews.” Dryden.
head (hĕd) adjective Principal; chief; leading; first; as, the head master of a school; the head man of a tribe; a head chorister; a head cook.

head (hĕd), transitive verb [imperfect or past participle head ed; present participle or verbal noun head ing.]

1. To be at the head of; to put one's self at the head of; to lead; to direct; to act as leader to; as, to head an army, an expedition, or a riot. Dryden.

2. To form a head to; to fit or furnish with a head ; as, to head a nail. Spenser.

3. To behead ; to decapitate. [Obs.] Shak.

4. To cut off the top of; to lop off; as, to head trees.

5. To go in front of; to get in the front of, so as to hinder or stop; to oppose; hence, to check or restrain; as, to head a drove of cattle; to head a person; the wind head s a ship.

head intransitive verb

1. To originate; to spring; to have its source, as a river.
A broad river, that head s in the great Blue Ridge. Adair.
2. To go or point in a certain direction; to tend; as, how does the ship head ?

3. To form a head ; as, this kind of cabbage head s early.

-- Webster's unabridged 1913

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