HomeQ&ABrunette - morena or castaña?

Brunette - morena or castaña?


In the dictionary, "brunette" = "morena". I put this in a handout for some English students who all assured me that I am incorrect. They say that "morena" only refers to dark skin color and though a "morena" probably has brown hair, not every brunette is "morena". They say that "castaña" (chestnut) would be the better choice, "castaña oscura" for dark brown and "castaña clara" for light brown. Is this correct or is it just a regional thing? How would you translate brunette? Thanks.

updated JUL 5, 2010
posted by alba3

5 Answers


If you are talking strictly about hair, mentioning the word, you would say castaña not morena.

However, if you are describing a person with dark hair, that is brunetter or black or dark brown...we would say:

Es morena, alta y delgada.

for example, without further indication, we would not think about the skin colour, which on the other hand can also be moreno.

updated JUL 5, 2010
posted by 00494d19
That's what I thought, but several South Americans disagree :( Thanks, I feel better. They had me thinking that I just invented the idea that morena means brunette. - alba3, JUL 5, 2010
Probably Southern- South American's would understand it the way Heidita is explaining it. Further North, and in the Caribbean, people will insist that it has to do with skin, not hair, color. - Gekkosan, JUL 5, 2010

Please have a look at this thread. (visual aid)

updated JUL 5, 2010
edited by Benz
posted by Benz
Very useful, thank you. - peregrinamaria, JUL 5, 2010
"thread"? - Gekkosan, JUL 5, 2010

I think it may depend on the region, as you say.

Here are the R.A.E. definitions:

moreno, na.

(De moro y -eno).

  1. adj. Dicho de un color: Oscuro que tira a negro.

  2. adj. Dicho de la piel: En la raza blanca, de color menos claro.

  3. adj. Dicho del pelo: En la raza blanca, negro o castaño.

  4. adj. coloq. Dicho de una persona: negra. U. m. c. s.

  5. adj. Cuba -- mulato (? nacido de negra y blanco, o al contrario).

updated JUL 5, 2010
posted by --Mariana--
I think this answer says it all. In the Latin American countries where I have been, "moreno/a" means dark-skinned. But I am familiar enough with the European and Southern American Spanish to know that there it generally means just "dark haired". - Gekkosan, JUL 5, 2010

I looked at the link provided by Benz, and it corroborates my assertion that in Southern South America, they understand the concept of "moreno/a" pretty much as they do in Europe.

In Venezuela, this lady is "una morena" (she is in fact, "Miss Morena Venezuela"). To be truthful, though, most people would say she's "negra" (Black).

alt text

So is this lady (she definitely qualifies as "morena" in the Caribbean):

alt text

updated JUL 5, 2010
edited by Gekkosan
posted by Gekkosan
Es verdad, posiblemente en Argentina asociamos "morena" más con la segunda imagen porque hay muy pocos "morenos" como la primera. En el caso de la primer imagen decimos "es negra" sin ningún tipo de ofensa intended... :) - Benz, JUL 5, 2010


En Colombia no se diría "es castaña", se diría "tiene el cabello/pelo castaño".

Good luck.

updated JUL 5, 2010
posted by LuisaGomezBartle
claro, eso digo yo, lo que se dice: es morena si no se menciona el pelo expresamente, igual que en España, rubia o morena..... - 00494d19, JUL 5, 2010
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