Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

I'm not clear what the difference between meanings 1 and 2 is meant to be. I think both definitions will need to be reworded because the definitions of "male" and "masculine" are currently circular. They also don't mean the same thing. The primary meaning of "male" has to do with sex (physical gender) - that's not true of "masculine". User:Amatlexico

I think "belonging or referring to" does not constitute two different meanings. I changed the circular definition in this entry as well as in female. Icek 11:04, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

An exchange about senses[edit]

OK, I know I'm going back six months here, but I think you made a mistake when you moved a citation from sense 2 to sense 1. You and I are ‘male’ in a sense which our hormones are not; we are male because we possess ‘male’ hormones, which are male only because we possess them. (Scientifically I know this isn't solid, but linguistically I think that's how it works.) Male hormones are male in the same way as a male voice is. Our sense 1 is like the OED's sense 1, and their cites include only ‘male rats’, ‘the male sex’, ‘male kind’, ‘male sparrows’ etc., whereas their sense 2 (=our sense 2) has references to ‘male force’, ‘male voice’, ‘a male domain’, ‘male plumage’, as well as ‘male hormones’. Ƿidsiþ 08:22, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

And I disagree based on current usage of the terms (both in and out of biology). The "male" hormones are innate features inherently and necessarily associated with "maleness", which constitutes the primary sense. A "male" voice is only male in humans, and only secondarily considered "male" by association. Someone who is a male, may not have a voice that is considered "male", but will necessarily have "male" hormones. I agree with the OED about the placement of their quotations on 'male force', 'male domain', and 'male plumage', as these are also secondarily associated with "maleness", and not inherently "male".
To me, the cites the OED lists for sense 1 look more to me like attributive use of a noun, rather than descriptive use of an adjective, but I'll concede now that it's also likely to be the result of seeing those phrases in isolation away from a larger context. However, to say that the first sense we have applies only to entire entities, or to groups of entities, is to assign a specificity which the term doesn't bear out. The "male member" is not male because it is possessed by a male, but rather the organism is male because it possesses that appendage. And I do mean that both biologically and linguistically. Likewise, a "male hormone" is not male because it is found in males, as the hormone testosterone occurs and is produced in both males and females. Rather, the male hormone is a determining factor in maleness and is inerent to "maleness" rather than being secondarily associated with it. --EncycloPetey 15:58, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

You are arguing that ‘male hormone’ is not a good fit for sense 2 – and perhaps you're right. But my primary concern is that it isn't a good fit for sense 1, which I believe should be about describing entities which belong to one of the two major divisions of living creatures. Male hormones do not get together with female hormones and reproduce; they are not male in that sense, which is what I think sense 1 should be about. Rather, male hormones are hormones which are produced by or associated with members of that class (though even then not exclusively, as you point out). So whether this means we need a third sense, perhaps along the lines of ‘being a necessary or inherent characteristic of’ which is different from the current sense 2 ‘pertaining to or associated with’, I don't know...but you understand what I mean don't you? A male antelope is male in a different way from a male hormone, that is my point. Ƿidsiþ 04:03, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

Yes, I see what you mean. Did you see what I meant when I described that as attributive use of the noun, rather than an adjective? To me, a "male antelope" is an antelope that is a male. So, I believe that the sense you are describing is not either of the two adjective senses, but is the noun sense further down the page. --EncycloPetey 14:23, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

Yep – and it's possible, originally. But since that is the first recorded use of the adjective, predating the ‘belonging to’ sense by 200 years (and recorded just as early as the noun), it seems fair to follow the OED in treating it as a true adjective and give it its own sense. Ƿidsiþ 15:40, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

If it is attributive use of the noun, then of course it's going to be dated as early as the noun and predate the adjectival use. This is only the first recorded use of the adjective because someone somewhere decided this was adjectival; we don't have to agree with that call if the evidence is contrary to that interpretation. --EncycloPetey 15:44, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

Hmm, it doesn't seem obvious to me that a noun would be used attributively immediately. Also, the first citation the OED has found is from 1382 (‘Two þou schalt brynge in to þe ark, þat male sex & female’) doesn't sound very attributive to my ear. There's also the fact that etymologically we got the word from Old French where it was already used as an adjective – indeed, was an adjective before it was ever a noun. But I'll leave it at that for now, and if you still disagree maybe we should copy all this to the talk page. Ƿidsiþ 16:01, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

If you notice, the 1382 quote puts "male sex" and "female" as parallel items, so it's either attributive use of the noun male or substantive use of the adjective female. Clearly the word (in either interpretation) was already in a dual use from very early on. --EncycloPetey 16:05, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

Adjectives were used with ‘nouns implied’ a lot more in those days, in formulas like ‘the quick and the dead’, ‘a good man and a true’ etc. Ƿidsiþ 16:09, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

But that's in written sources, and the writers were often Latin educated. Classical grammarians made no distinction between adjectives and nouns as parts of speech, as the two had the same inflectional patterns and often held interchangeable roles. --EncycloPetey 05:05, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

What I've done is hopefully acceptable to everyone: I've limited the first sense to describing what we discussed above, and split the second into two different senses, one describing inherent biological properties (including the OED's subsense 1e of reproductive organs etc.) and the other just describing those things related to or associated with men. I fully accept that sense 1 in early use may often be interpreted equally well as an attributive noun, but I think it's reasonable to treat it as an adjective since it is clearly felt as one by modern speakers and described as such by all dictionaries that I can see. (The OED has an interesting note at female which relates to what we've been talking about: ‘The Fr. word has always been chiefly a n. (though a few instances occur of OF. and Pr. femel, med.L. femellus adj.); but from the earliest times it was often used in apposition with an epicene n., thus becoming a quasi-adj., and in modern Fr. it is to some extent used as a genuine adj. (the form femelle serving for both grammatical genders). In Eng., on the other hand, the adjectival use is by far the more prominent: the feeling of the mod. lang. apprehends the n. as an absolute use of the adj.’ -- all of which suggests that our discussion has touched on something important about the history of these words.) Ƿidsiþ 09:15, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Yes. Coincidentally, I was working on Latin words beginning in f just now, and realized some of this about the source word femina and its descendants as I cleaned up that entry. --EncycloPetey 16:48, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Chromosomes from 14th c.?[edit]

  1. Belonging to the sex which typically has testes, which in humans and most other mammals is typically the one which has XY chromosomes. [from 14th c.]

A little research tells me the XY sex-determination system was only discovered about 1905, and chromosomes were discovered shortly before that. The first definition of "male" mentions these things but is dated "[from 14th c.]".

Is there a way to phrase it so it doesn't appear anachronistic? Perhaps the clause about XY sex-determination could be dropped, as I don't think it adds greatly to this definition anyway considering the myriad of sex-determination systems in animals (and plants). We could also insert a separate, human-specific "XY male" definition for "male".

Thought I'd mention it on the talk page before changing, as similar changes will be needed for female, and I don't really want to be responsible defining "male" and "female" anyway.

See also: w:Sex determination and differentiation (human). —Pengo (talk) 10:27, 23 March 2014 (UTC)

I agree that this is an issue and have raised it, these four years later, at Wiktionary:Tea room/2018/February#time-travellers_knew_about_chromosomes_in_the_14th_century?. - -sche (discuss) 16:43, 2 February 2018 (UTC)
This comes up in many definitions; I usually try to get around it by using phrasing like "Belonging to the sex which [colloquial definition], now understood as being [scientific definition]". It's important to note that it isn't a new definition, only that we have different ways to describe it now. Ƿidsiþ 17:39, 2 February 2018 (UTC)
In this case, I think we're still better off leaving chromosomes out of the definition itself, because there are quite a few w:Sex-determination systems besides XX-XY which the definition could grow quite long describing (even when disregarding intersex conditions), and I'm sure references to male and female birds (and probably also bees) predate the discovery of those chromosomes, too (and I doubt most people are thinking of chromosomes when they use these words in everyday contexts, anyway). I do think changing "which [does such-and-such]" to "which typically does [such-and-such]" has helped things. But I'm sure the definitions can still be improved upon; please, comment in the Tea Room if you have ideas. - -sche (discuss) 00:08, 3 February 2018 (UTC)