Oxford dictionaries change 'sexist' and outdated definitions of the word 'woman'

Even the dictionary can be sexist and out of date, especially when it comes to how a “woman” is described.

Earlier this year, Oxford University Press changed its entry for “woman” in its dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, to include more positive ways to describe a female.

“We have expanded the dictionary coverage of ‘woman’ with more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner,” according to a statement from OUP. “We have ensured that offensive synonyms or senses are clearly labelled as such and only included where we have evidence of real world usage.”

Phrases such as “woman of the moment” were added to equal the old saying of the “man of the moment.” And one of the definitions of “woman” now refers to a “person’s wife, girlfriend, or ‘female lover,’” as opposed to being tied to only a man.

The definition for “man” was updated to include gender-neutral terms and references to “sexual attractiveness or activity” were revised for “man” and “woman” entries.

OUP said its lexicographers regularly review entries to make sure they are accurate. This time around, the voice of the people helped create change, an OUP spokeswoman told CNN in an email Monday.

“Sometimes the team focus on topics highlighted by user feedback (such as last year’s petition about the definition of ‘woman’) and sometimes these topics are driven by current events or through projects taking place within the Oxford Languages team,” the spokeswoman wrote.

She cited work the organization has done on words relating to race, racial diversity and the use of “they” as a pronoun for nonbinary people as other examples this year.


“Our dictionaries reflect, rather than dictate, how language is used,” OUP wrote in the statement. “This is driven solely by evidence of how real people use English in their daily lives.”

With that in mind, lexicographers reviewed examples in its dictionary data to make sure representations of woman were “positive and active,” the organization said.

The review looked at the definitions of “man” and “woman,” as well as the examples of the word being used in a sentence, labels and synonyms. It also looked at entries that are associated with women.

Labels were added to “offensive, derogatory, or dated” terms. The synonyms were also evaluated to make sure they are genuine synonyms.

The synonyms for “woman” had listed “wench,” “piece” and other derogatory terms last year. Some of those synonyms in the OED were removed and others have a label, such as the the word “bi—” being an offensive one.

The definition of “housework” was updated to take gender out of the equation in the dictionaries. “She still does all the housework,” was changed to “I was busy doing housework when the doorbell rang.”

The organization says all of this is part of the ongoing effort to “re-examine” language and labeling to make sure it’s up to date for a “modern audience.”




Just stop it with this nonsense!

1 Like

The world will be the world.

OED becoming the Oxford Woke Dictionary.
If you have an old copy, better save it, for the preservation of the English language.

God knows what they’d make of things like my late uncle coming in from a day at work going, ‘Woman, is me dinner in the oven?’ when looking around the kitchen. My dad used this term with mum as well when she was alive. Probably assume my aunt and mum were being oppressed, which would have got you funny looks from both women, trying to oppress either of them is not a task I’d want to undertake. Particularly my late mother, who had a spitfire temper when roused. It was just common cultural usage in this case.

1 Like

Well done OUP and well done ThinkingSapien on the :scream: clickbait.

Hey, I was just glad they didn’t have a definition like “a person of either sex that prefers the feminine pronouns.”

I remember a few years ago in an office in which I worked, there was a poster over the urinals to raise awareness with there being insufficient bathrooms for men without a penis. I was confused for a moment, thi king it was about people that had suffered a serious injury or birth defect.

1 Like

Surely mentioning things like that here and and the urinals will become a slippery slope in and of themselves?

Not having the plumbing for urinals, I’m not an expert on the subject but most places need more bathrooms. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

I almost spat out my food from laughter when I read this!


London most definitely is in dire need of more public loos. The lack of them is really awkward at times. People end up sometimes buying a coffee or something out of shops just to use a loo, pre-lockdown if you were wandering around the West End and knew which museums were free that was an easy way to ‘spend a penny’.

1 Like

I ran into that in NYC. My flight home was cancelled due to rain and I had to stay another day. My next chance out was at 9pm, but I had to be out of the hotel by 12. So I had several hours with no place to be and no place to pee. To add to that, a bird flying by relieved itself and it got on my arms and hands. I had to go in a store to purchase something just so that I could clean up.

Easiest places locally for a whiz here would be in the large Tesco’s supermarket nearby, when the loo is working. I wouldn’t use the bank of toilets near the nearby graveyard as that area tends to be populated by drunks looking for handouts or street gangs selling ‘food’ and I don’t mean hamburgers and chips when I use that term. Outside of that you’ve got few options. Many of the stores that do have toilets have locked them of anyway due to the pandemic and a lot of them are closed right now. The public toilets tend to be broken. The library used to be rather useful as it had nice clean and tidy toilets and a large bank of them.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.