• Tue. Jan 31st, 2023

Cambridge dictionary expands definition of ‘woman’ and ‘man’


A person studying the dictionary.— Unsplash
A person studying the dictionary.— Unsplash

The Cambridge Dictionary is the most recent dictionary to explicitly expand what it means to be a woman or man. It recently amended its definitions of “woman” and “man” to include transgender persons.

The modification was made to the definition of “woman,” according to a Cambridge Dictionary representative, who talked to The Washington Post. However, the revelation only became widely known this week after being first reported by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.

The traditional definition of the word, “An adult female human being,” is still present and “remains unmodified” in the Cambridge entry for “woman,” according to the representative. However, the word’s further definition is provided below.

“An adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth,” it reads.

The entry for “man” has received changes too. Mark is a trans man (= a guy who was believed to be female when they were born), as well as “Their doctor urged them to live as a man for a period before undergoing surgical transition,” are two instances given for the additional definition of “man.”

The announcement of the dictionary’s revised meaning coincides with an important turning point in the long struggle for marriage equality in the US. 

The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster both recently expanded their definitions of “woman” and “female,” respectively, and the Cambridge Dictionary has now done the same.

Oxford changed the definition of “woman” in 2020 in response to criticism that the word and the related pejorative synonyms were “sexist.” According to the dictionary, a “woman” is not only a man’s lover, but also “a person’s wife, girlfriend, or female lover.” The definition of “man” has also been modified to use gender-neutral language, according to the Guardian.

In its supplemental definition for “woman” that year, Merriam-Webster noted that being a woman entails “having a gender identification that is the opposite of male.” For “man,” a similar action was taken. 

When the 2020 amendment reappeared on Twitter this year, conservatives expressed fury about the addition to the definitions.

On Tuesday, as news of the Cambridge Dictionary’s addition of a meaning for “woman” circulated online, conservative Twitter users criticised the move again. Some, like Leroy Thomas, the director of communications for the National Center for Transgender Equality, hailed the decision as the most recent confirmation that “transgender women are women.”

In 2022, the word “woman” was so widely used that Dictionary.com designated it as the word of the year. The website defines a woman as “an adult female person” and “a female employee or representative.”

“More than ever, we are all faced with questions about who gets to identify as a woman (or a man, or neither),” the website said. “The policies that these questions inform transcend the importance of any dictionary definition — they directly impact people’s lives.”



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