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From Middle English heedles, hevedles, from Old English hēafodlēas (headless), equivalent to head +‎ -less. Cognate with Dutch hoofdloos (headless), Danish hovedløs (headless), Swedish huvudlös (headless), Icelandic höfuðlaus (headless).


headless (not comparable)

  1. Without a head; decapitated.
    How did the headless horseman see to chase Ichabod?
  2. Without leadership.
    The headless army blundered along after the death of their general, accomplishing nothing.
    • 1614, Walter Raleigh, Historie of the World
      His forsaken soldiers, being now a headless company, and no longer an army to be feared, obtained nevertheless a reasonable composition from the Carthaginians []
  3. (linguistics, of a phrase or compound) Not having a head morpheme or word.
  4. (computing) Running without a graphical user interface; running without any attached output device (e.g., monitor) or input device (e.g., keyboard, mouse).
    • 2003, William Boswell, Inside Windows Server 2003, Addison-Wesley, →ISBN, page 62:
      /redirect. Used for console redirection in headless servers.
    • 2007, Carla Schroder, Linux Networking Cookbook, O’Reilly Media (2008), →ISBN, page 47:
      Routers typically run headless, without a keyboard or monitor.
    • 2010, Charles Bell et al., MySQL High Availability: Tools for Building Robust Data Centers, O'Reilly Media, →ISBN, page 278:
      This is not unexpected for a Windows system running as a virtual machine or a headless server []
  5. (of beer) Without a head of foam.
  6. (obsolete) Heedless.
    • 1579, E. K. (Edward Kirke ?), Notes on Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender
      If any one will rashly blame such his choice of old and unwonted words, him may I more justly blame and condemn, either of witless headiness in judging, or of headless hardiness in condemning.
    • 1579, Edmund Spenser, The Shepherd’s Calendar, John Ball, London, published 1732
      THENOT: Cuddy, I wot thou kenſt little Good, / So vainly to advance thy headleſs Hood.

Derived terms[edit]