Hairbrained vs. harebrained

Photo of author


Hares are known for their jumpiness, and they’re also not the smartest creatures on Earth. This is how we get the adjective harebrained, which refers to these perceived qualities of the hare and usually means flighty, reckless, or badly thought out. Some writers hyphenate ithare-brained—but the one-word form is noted in dictionaries, for what that’s worth, and is more common.

Most authorities on these things regard hairbrained as a misspelling. It has been a common one for centuries, though, and it does sort of make sense when we consider that someone with hair in their brain probably isn’t much smarter than a hare. Still, harebrained is the conventional spelling.


The late-night veteran and his writers squeezed as much humor as they could out of the harebrained escapade that landed Whittemore, 22, in the drunk tank. [New York Daily News]

He is quite animated and only now half admits to himself what a hairbrainedplan this is. [Gatherers and Hunters, Thomas Shapcott]

Yet when it comes to Rico’s harebrained scheme, Nate’s the only one who’s in a position to be the bad cop. [AV Club]

[T]here is a huge amount of human capital and time wasted on projects that don’t work, get lost in the mix, or are just plain harebrained. [letter to Harvard Business Review]

The latest harebrained government scheme “to help people back into work” will fail. [Halifax Courier]