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I always forget what this special hairstyle is called, which is shared by some characters. I'll give some examples, I think it should be clear what I mean.

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Edward Elric also has this wisp(?), but I can't find a good image of it.
What is it called? What does it stand for?

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+50

TV Tropes lists it under the name of "idiot hair", which apparently has an equivalent term in Japanese judging from the TV Tropes entry and by some Googling. "hair antennae" is also similar to that.

As for actual meanings, it probably depends on the specific work - for instance, in Fullmetal Alchemist, the wisp doesn't seem to mean anything in particular, beyond acting as some sort of identity marker in some cases (e.g. the characteristic curled strand of the Armstrongs) or as some sort of personal idiosyncrasy with regards to appearance (in the case of Edward, judging from, for instance, an episode where he intentionally makes a strand of hair stick up like that). Other series I can't answer for as much for lack of having noticed this detail as much, but given this I'd suspect that whether this "stands for" anything depends a lot on the context and on the specific work in question.

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    In Trinity Universe the Dark Hero Lucius gets all pissy when anyone refers to it as an antennae and he calls it his "Tension Gage" and it seems to change shapes depending on his mood, in any Nasuverse works that features Saber-Arturia outside Fate/Stay Night pulling on it turns Saber into Saber Alter making her more selfish to her desires – Memor-X Oct 30 '13 at 21:03
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    This does not have a specific meaning that it is signifying; rather, this situation actually happens in real-life, and then manga/anime art incorporated it into character designs. When some strands of hair get pulled out and then start growing again from the root, they are shorter than the rest of the head of hair, and without enough length weighing them down, they peskily stick up, especially after blow-drying. This is similar to horizontal or curled hair in front of manga/anime characters' ears; it stylistically depicts actual wispy, flyaway hair on some people who do not groom sideburns. – seijitsu Jun 4 '15 at 7:06
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The other answer is technically correct, but I don't think the term "idiot hair" is actually common in the English-speaking anime community apart from on TVTropes. The Japanese term for this is ahoge, which literally translates to "idiot hair", but that translated term isn't particularly frequently used. A search 'Ahoge anime' gets around 700k Google hits for me, while '"Idiot Hair" anime' only has around 10k hits. Among the translated anime I've seen, some more liberal translators will keep the term "ahoge", while others translate it to other English phrases such as "cowlick". I can't think of any cases where the term "idiot hair" itself was used.

The hair style and the use of the term were both popularized by the gag anime/manga Pani Poni Dash, specifically by the character Katagiri Himeko. Given her personality, the term "idiot hair" is justified in that case. The anime for this aired in 2005, but characters with similar hairstyles have existed for a lot longer.

However, while the hairstyle can signify a childish or idiotic personality, it does not always do so. There is no single correct meaning for it, and it's quite common nowadays for it to be used only for stylistic reasons, similar to the strange colors often used for hair in anime.

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    I agree, hardly anyone outside TVTropes uses the term "idiot hair" in practice, while "ahoge" is fairly well known among fandom. – recognizer May 14 '15 at 16:26

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