Oxford dictionaries change definition for the word 'woman'

Yahoo News Staff
·3-min read

The Oxford University Press has updated its entry of “woman” in its dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, following a petition to stop casual sexism, not perpetuate it.

The entry was changed earlier this year, according to CNN, and it was amended to depict women in a more “positive” manner.

"We have expanded the dictionary coverage of 'woman' with more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner," a statement provided from Oxford University Press (OUP) said, according to CNN.

"We have ensured that offensive synonyms or senses are clearly labelled as such and only included where we have evidence of real world usage."

Following an online petition, the Oxford University Press has amended it’s entries for the word "woman". Source: AP
Following an online petition, the Oxford University Press has amended it’s entries for the word "woman". Source: AP

A spokesperson from OUP said the changes were made when the dictionary compilers had an “extensive review” of the entries under “woman” and related terms.

One of the new definitions refers to a woman as a “person’s wife, girlfriend or female lover” as opposed to a “man’s wife”, to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ communities.

The changes were a result of an online petition which was launched last year.

The Change.org petition had over 34,000 signatures and featured an open letter urging for the entry to be updated.

The petition said the term ‘woman’ would refer users to other terms such as “bitch” and “maid”, while the entry for “man” would be more positive.

“Did you know that if you are a woman, the dictionary will refer to you as a ‘b**ch’ or a ‘maid’?” the petition says.

“And that a man is ‘a person with the qualities associated with males, such as bravery, spirit, or toughness’ or ‘a man of honour’ and the ‘man of the house’?”

The petition specifically called upon Oxford University Press to change the entry of the word “woman” in the Oxford English Dictionary and the online dictionaries.

The dictionary entry was changed after an online petition called for the Oxford Dictionary to amend the entry for "woman". Source: PA
The dictionary entry was changed after an online petition called for the Oxford Dictionary to amend the entry for "woman". Source: PA

“Dictionaries are essential reference tools, and the Oxford Dictionary of English is an essential learning tool, used in libraries and schools around the world,” the petition says.

“It is also the source licensed by Apple and Google, namely the most read online dictionary in the world.

“Its inclusion of derogatory terms used to describe women should aim at exposing everyday sexism, not perpetuating it.”

The petition also points out language is important, and having negative connotations associated with the word “woman” could have real world implications and shape the way women are treated.

Earlier this year, Kennedy Mitchum from the US state of Missouri sent off an email which resulted in Merriam Webster updating its definition of “racism”.

“It's not just 'I don't like someone,' it's a system of oppression for a certain group of people,” Ms Mitchum told KMOV back in June.

The definition was updated to include the systemic aspects of racism.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.