Barbing Salon or Barbershop: Which is Correct?

Barbing Salon or Barbershop: Which is Correct?

Welcome to this interesting post. I’m sure you are getting lots of helpful information on Akademia. This post, Barbing Salon or Barbershop: Which is Correct? expatiates on the correct form of how we describe the place the male folks get a haircut; I know some females visit there too. Almost everybody is guilty of using the wrong expression, ‘Barbing Salon’! It is not only incorrect, it is a complete misnomer.

Barbing Salon: A Misnomer

You have certainly heard statements like:

  • I need to visit the barbing salon.
  • He opened a barbing salon last week.
  • Which barbing salon do you use?
  • Running a barbing salon is a lucrative business.

Never mind that I did not say you have even made such statements countless times. Don’t be shocked that I said the expression ‘Barbing Salon’ is a misnomer. So how do we then say it in the correct form? Well, this is why you are reading this and we will get to that in a short while; just follow on.

Let us begin with the word ‘barb’. It will interest you that not one definition of the word directly refers to getting rid of hair on one’s head; though one of them relates to the ‘beard’ and the Latin word for that is Barba. Let us see some definitions…


As a noun, it means the following:

  1. A sharp point facing away from the head of an arrow, fishhook, or harpoon, designed to make it difficult to remove
  2. Hurtful comment, a wounding or cutting remark, a gibe
  3. A stiff spine that forms the framework of a feather that sticks out on each side of the main shaft; that is, any of the numerous hairlike filaments that form the vane of a feather.
  4. Any small cyprinid fish of the genus Barbus (or Puntius) and related genera, often kept in aquariums
  5. A hooked projection or hair on some plants and certain fruits
  6. A beardlike growth or whisker in certain animals
  7. A white linen cloth forming part of a headdress extending from the chin to the upper chest, originally worn by women in the Middle Ages, now worn by nuns of some orders
  8. Any of various pointed parts, as on barbed wire

As a verb, it means to ‘fit something with barb, to provide with a barb or barbs’ and the adjective form is ‘barbed’.

Who then invented Barbing Salon?

I am certain that many questions would have popped up in your mind as you read the various definitions of the word ‘barb; and I deduce the uppermost one is: ‘How have we come to associate this word with the removal of hair on the head?’ Let us look at some possibilities!

We might have got this idea from the word ‘barber’ which simply refers to someone who cuts hair as a profession. It may then stand to reason that just as a teacher teaches, a writer writes and a singer sings, then a barber barbs. So we might have erroneously concluded that a barber is one who barbs! But the removal of the inflectional morpheme ‘-er’ does not yield the meaning ‘to cut the hair’ as the various definitions above show. So it is clear that ‘barbing’ has nothing to do with hair.

Another possible source is the word ‘salon’ which means, among other things, ‘a place for hairdressing or beauty treatments; that is, a commercial establishment where hairdressers or beauticians work, and sometimes part of a larger store or a hotel’. So it may not be wrong to say you want to visit the salon for a haircut since it is a place where the hair is ‘dressed’. So what then is the right way to describe ‘barbing salon’? It is simply ‘Barbershop’! Yes! That is simply it! Take note that it is one word and it means ‘the business place or premises of a barber’.

Barb or Barber?

So do not say ‘barbing salon’, say ‘barbershop’! In addition, note that the action of cutting one’s hair, that is the verb, is ‘barber’. It would be wrong to say:

  • *I want to barb my hair.
  • *Let us barb her hair.

The right thing to say is:

  • I want to barber my hair.
  • Let us barber her hair.
  • The children went to the barbershop to barber their hair.

It is not wrong however to say you want to get or have a haircut. What you get after barbering your hair is ‘haircut’. See the following:

  • How do you like my new haircut?
  • He gave me a nice looking haircut.
  • Your haircut is trendy.
  • That’s some awesome haircut you’ve got.

But remember, to have a haircut, you must visit the salon or barbershop, not a barbing salon, where a barber will barber your hair. Isn’t it interesting!


  1. This is EGL 101 all over again. Very educative. I have some queries in the area of etymology though
    1. Why is “er” an inflectional morpheme in the word “barber”?

    2. Is “er” a MEANINGFUL morphological unit in the word “barber”?

    3. Based on credible patterns of acceptance of certain classes of words into English vocabulary, shouldn’t we accept that “barbing” should no longer be CUT out as bad grammar? Pun intended. Lol.

    This is not a joking matter though. It is an issue that concern the “quick” (old form “alive”) and the dead. “Presents” (documents) containing “barbing salon” shouldn’t be “boycotted” (from proper noun Boycott) only for the reason that babring is used in place of barbering.
    Well let’s leave the debate about “barbing” and ” barbering” lest grammarians accuse us of “Flouncing and “blundering”. Abi na “FlounDering” sef!

    1. Thanks for your questions and observations, Babs. For question 3, it is not an impossibility. Words gain different linguistic colouration based on usage over time. This is why in language, there is no relationship between the signifier and the signified. If linguists agree that “barbing” shouldn’t be classified as ‘bad grammar’, that would be great and I’ll certainly write about it!
      For questions 1 and 2, I did say that ‘…the removal of the inflectional morpheme ‘-er’ does not yield the meaning ‘to cut the hair’ as the various definitions above show. So it is clear that ‘barbing’ has nothing to do with hair.’ So technically, the ‘er’ cannot be separated from ‘barb’ anymore can you separate ‘tea’ from ‘teach’. The morpheme ‘er’ generally yields the sense of someone who ‘does something’…but that becomes an exception in the case of ‘barber’, which is a verb itself.
      Thanks so much for taking time out to read Akademia. Do like us on Facebook!

  2. wow, this is good , got plenty of laugh from my friends already and I decided to research. Thanks man this is good. So now my saloon will be named DE ROCKS BARBERSHOP. KUDOS I LOVE THIS .

  3. PJ you has destroyed all my grammar and English I have been taught all these years. If not for the fact I know you and the stuff you are made of,I go fight you with agidi Ekiti. You are good so I am going to barber my hair. Abi na wah oooo. Kudos.

    1. Thank you, Sam
      We should endeavour to use the English Language, not from the mindset of our indigenous language, but from the perspective of the Standard English. ‘Cutting’ your hair may not appropriately convey the sense of getting a haircut. Rather than say you want to cut your hair, you can say, ‘I want to have a haircut’.

  4. Woah! ‘Barber my hair; barbering.’ Never knew I could use them as verbs.
    I hope writing it this way: Barber shop isn’t totally out of it sir. That’s what I have on my British Dictionary app.

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