Dictionary Changes Its Definition of 'Woman'

But Oxford Dictionaries clings to the notion that the 'b-word' means 'woman'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2020 3:30 PM CST
Oxford Alters Its Definition of 'Woman'—Up to a Point
Stock image.   (Getty Images)

Oxford University Press has amended its dictionaries after a pressure campaign alleged "derogatory" and "sexist" definitions of the word "woman," the Guardian reports. Among the changes to Oxford Dictionaries: A woman is now listed as "a person's wife, girlfriend, or female lover" instead of just a man's, and the "man" entry includes similarly gender-neutral terms. But Oxford has stuck with a definition of "bitch" as synonymous with "woman"—a "spiteful, unpleasant, or disliked woman"—while adding the label "offensive." That doesn't sit well with Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, who started a petition to pressure OUP that has over 34,000 signatures.

"Bitch is not a synonym for woman," the petition reads. "It is dehumanizing to call a woman a bitch. It is but one sad, albeit extremely damaging, example of everyday sexism." Giovanardi adds that "dickhead"—which the dictionaries consider "a stupid, irritating, or ridiculous man"—is defined as "vulgar slang" and not a synonym for "man." But she said she was "very happy" with other changes and thought the petition had met 90% of its goals. As for OUP, it said its compilers tackled an "extensive review" of definitions "for 'woman' and many other terms," and kept "example uses of words that are offensive or derogatory, and which we wouldn’t necessarily employ ourselves." (More dictionary stories.)

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