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  • (UK) IPA(key): /tuːˈspɪɹɪt/, /ˈtuːˌspɪɹɪt/

Etymology 1[edit]

A calque of Ojibwe niizh manidoowag (two spirits), from niizh (two) + manidoo (spirit).[1] Replaced berdache, which had come to be considered offensive.


two-spirit (not comparable)

  1. (of a Native American) Identifying as transgender, or as any of various tribal third genders, rather than as cismale or cisfemale.
    • 1996, Ritch C Savin-Williams & Kenneth M Cohen, The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals: Children to Adults, p. 421:
      A Hupa two-spirit male told me: ‘I was real feminine as a child, from as early as I can remember.’
    • 1997, Sue-Ellen Jacobs, Wesley Thomas & Sabine Lang, Two-spirit People, p. 4:
      With this etymology, it should come as no surprise that many Native American gay, lesbian, transgender, and other two-spirit people consider the term ‘berdache’ derogatory.
    • 2010, Walter L Williams, The Guardian, 11 Oct 2010:
      Instead of seeing two-spirit persons as transsexuals who try to make themselves into "the opposite sex", it is more accurate to understand them as individuals who take on a gender status that is different from both men and women.


Wikipedia has an article on:


two-spirit (plural two-spirits)

  1. A Native (North) American who is not cismale or cisfemale, but is transgender or belongs to belongs to any of various tribal third genders.
    • 2009, James Neill, The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, p. 38:
      Because of their spiritual powers, sex with a two-spirit was often considered to bring good luck.
  • berdache (now often considered offensive)

See also[edit]


  • Bullough, Vern L. & Bonnie. (1993). Crossdressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Cameron, Michelle. (2005). Two-spirited Aboriginal people: Continuing cultural appropriation by non-Aboriginal society. Canadian Women Studies, 24 (2/3), 123-127.
  • Dynes, Wayne R., Homolexis Glossary (2008), berdache: In recent years, efforts have been made to replace berdache with "two-spirit." In 1993, a group of anthropologists and natives issued guidelines that formalized these preferences. "Berdache," they argued, is a term "that has its origins in Western thought and languages." Scholars were urged to discard it, inserting "[sic]" following its appearance in quoted texts. In its place they were encouraged to use tribally specific terms for multiple genders or the term "two-spirit." This attempt at rebranding recalls the shifts from homosexual to gay to queer to GLBT. As the noted scholar Will Roscoe observed, "[u]nfortunately, these guidelines create as many problems as they solve, beginning with a mischaracterization of the history and meaning of the word ‘berdache.’ As a Persian term, its origins are Eastern not Western. Nor is it a derogatory term, except to the extent that all terms for nonmarital sexuality in European societies carried a measure of condemnation. It was rarely used with the force of ‘faggot,’ but more often as a euphemism with the sense of ‘lover’ or ‘boyfriend.’ Its history, in this regard, is akin to that of ‘gay,’ ‘black,’ and ‘Chicano’—terms that also lost negative connotations over time."
  • Jacobs, Sue-Ellen; Wesley Thomas, and Sabine Lang (Eds.). (1997). Two-spirit people: Native American gender identity, sexuality, and spirituality. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02344-7, ISBN 0-252-06645-6.
  1. ^ Jodi O'Brien, Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, volume 1 (2009, ISBN 1412909163)
  2. ^ Cheyenne Dictionary of Fisher, Leman, Pine, and Sanchez

Etymology 2[edit]

From two +‎ spirit.


two-spirit (not comparable)

  1. (theology) Involving two spirits; especially, pertaining to the doctrine of dualism espoused in the so-called Treatise on the Two Spirits in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
    • 1957, The Harvard Divinity School bulletin (Harvard University Press), page 133:
      Paul's grasp of the Spirit as the sign of the erupting messianic age is at odds with the two-spirit thought of Qumran which never became incompatible with law observance.