Burt Reynolds: 'Hirsute' Hollywood Icon
A Latin-derived word for "hairy"
Lookups for hirsute spiked over 2000% on September 6th, 2018, following news of the death of Burt Reynolds at 82. An obituary in The Hollywood Reporter quoted journalist Scott Tobias describing Reynolds as the "standard of hirsute masculinity," and Bloomberg’s article used the word in its first sentence:
Burt Reynolds, who flaunted his macho, hirsute good looks in a steamy Cosmopolitan centerfold, high-profile romances and a string of hit movies that showcased his flirtatious charms, has died. He was 82.
Hirsute is a fancy way of saying “hairy,” used both as the Latin-derived synonym of the Old English-derived hairy and as a more technical term in botany and zoology to mean “covered with coarse stiff hairs” when referring to the leaves and roots of plants and animals like caterpillars.
Hirsute comes from the Latin word hirsūtus, meaning “hairy” and “bristly,” and is related to the Latin verb horrēre, meaning “to bristle”—which gave us words like horror, horrid, and horrendous, things that make your hair stand on end.
Since Burt Reynolds was a superstar in the 1970s and 80s, a time when big mustaches and chest hair were fashionable, it’s not surprising that remembrances of him in his heyday include reference to his iconic looks.