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See also: -woman


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A woman.
Various women.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • (singular:) womon, wommon (feminist spellings; rare; see usage notes)
  • womyn (plural: womyn, wymyn) (feminist spellings; rare; see usage notes)
  • (plural:) wimmin (eye-dialect spellings of women, also used by some feminists)
  • (plural:) wimmen (eye-dialect spellings of women)


From Middle English woman, wimman, wifman, from Old English wiman, wimman, wīfmann(woman; female servant, literally female person; female human being), equivalent to wife +‎ man. Cognate with Scots woman, weman. Compare Saterland Frisian Wieuwmoanske(female person; female human being), also Dutch vrouwmens(wife, literally woman-person), West Frisian frommes(woman, girl) (from frou and minske, literally "woman human-being"), Dutch vrouwspersoon(woman), German Weibsperson(female person), and dialectal German Fraumensch(woman, literally woman human-being).

Many alternative spellings (see above) respell the term so as not to contain man.



woman (plural women)

  1. An adult female human.
    • Bible, Genesis 2:22:
      And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman.
    • John Ledyard (1751-1789)
      I have observed among all nations that the women ornament themselves more than the men []
    • 1887, Helen Campbell, Prisoners of poverty: their trades and their lives, p.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.
  2. (collective) All females collectively; womankind.
    • 1915, Emerson Hough, The Purchase Price, chapterI:
      “[…] 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.”
    • 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.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The feminist alternative spelling womyn is about ten thousand times less common than women; the spelling wymyn is about one million times less common.[1]





Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



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.

See also[edit]


Most common English words before 1923: enough · quite · brought · #231: woman · want · home · whose


  1. ^ Google Books ngram data