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See also: -woman



A woman.
Various women.


From Middle English woman, from earlier wimman, wifman; the pronunciation of the first vowel of the singular was altered under the rounding influence of the w; the plural, although sometimes also altered to /ʊ/ in Middle English, retains the original pronunciation, though the spelling was influenced by the singular.[1][2] The Middle English forms are from Old English wiman, wimman, from wīfmann m (woman; female servant, literally female person), a compound of wīf (woman, whence English wife) +‎ mann (person, whence English man).

Cognate with Scots woman, weman. Compare Saterland Frisian Wieuwmoanske (female person; female human). Similar constructions can be found in Dutch vrouwmens (wife, literally woman-person), West Frisian frommes (woman, girl) (from frou and minske, literally "woman human"), Dutch vrouwspersoon (woman), German Weibsperson (female person), and dialectal German Fraumensch (woman, literally woman human).

A few alternative spellings (see below) respell the term so as not to contain man.



woman (plural women)

  1. An adult female human.
    • 1887, Helen Campbell, Prisoners of poverty: their trades and their lives, page 120:
      But this woman is a nice German woman that fell on the ice and sprained her ankle last winter, and we saw to her well as we could till she got better.
    • 1979, Muriel Lederer, Blue-collar jobs for women, page 59:
      During World War II, many women worked as blacksmiths in the shipbuilding industry and found they liked the challenging, independent work.
    • 2012, Kate Welsh, Substitute Daddy (→ISBN):
      "There is nothing wrong with Melissa or the way she was raised. She is a sweet, kind, intelligent woman with a generous heart and more love for her child than you and Mother ever showed for either of your children."
    • For more examples of usage of this term, see Citations:woman.
  2. (collective) All females collectively; womankind.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314, page 0029:
      “[…] it is not fair of you to bring against mankind double weapons ! Dangerous enough you are as woman alone, without bringing to your aid those gifts of mind suited to problems which men have been accustomed to arrogate to themselves.”
    • 1972, Helen Reddy, "I Am Woman," first line:
      I am Woman, hear me roar / In numbers too big to ignore
    • 1997, Bob Grant, Let's Be Heard, p.42:
      For if modern woman is so intent on keeping her surname alive, why not demand it be passed along to her children?
    • 2011, Eileen Gray and the Design of Sapphic Modernity: Staying In, p.109:
      Unsurprisingly, if modern man is a sort of camera, modern woman is a picture.
  3. A wife (or sometimes a fiancée or girlfriend).
    • 1914, D. H. Lawrence, Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays, chapter 7: "Of Being and Not-Being":
      And then, when he lies with his woman, the man may concurrently be with God, and so get increase of his soul.
  4. A female who is extremely fond of or devoted to a specified type of thing. (Used as the last element of a compound.)
    • 2004, Hyveth Williams, Secrets of a Happy Heart: A Fresh Look at the Sermon on the Mount, p.70:
      Perhaps my problem is that I am a cat woman. I can't imagine any finicky feline (and they all are that at one time or another) slobbering over anyone, even a beloved owner, the way a dog does.
  5. A female attendant or servant.

Alternative formsEdit




Coordinate termsEdit

Derived termsEdit

Derived terms of woman without hyponyms

Related termsEdit




woman (third-person singular simple present womans, present participle womaning, simple past and past participle womaned)

  1. To staff with female labor.
    • 1956, Rex Stout, Three Witnesses, The Viking Press, page 54
      Apparently the Sixty-ninth Street office of Bagby Answers, Inc., was being womaned for the day from other offices.
    • 1990, Stephen King, The stand: the complete & uncut edition
      Gus Dinsmore, the public beach parking lot attendent, said he guessed that so many cars must be just stopped dead along the road that even those manned (or womaned) by able drivers would be unable to move.
    • 2010, Julia Glass, The Widower's Tale, page 77
      The information desk is now manned (womaned) by someone whose main job is to help you reserve time slots for the computers or guide you through the arduous process of “logging on.”
  2. (transitive) To make effeminate or womanish.
  3. (transitive) To furnish with, or unite to, a woman.
  4. (transitive) To call (a person) "woman" in a disrespectful fashion.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Eric John Dobson, English Pronunciation, volume 2 (1957), page 574
  2. ^ woman” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019. / “woman” in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.

Middle EnglishEdit


woman (plural women)

  1. Alternative form of womman