The Cambridge Dictionary recently updated its definitions of “man” and “woman” to include people whose gender identity doesn’t correspond with their biological sex.
The definition of “man” in the online version includes a second meaning: “an adult who lives and identifies as male though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.”
The example sentences alongside the definition include:
- Mark is a trans man (= a man who was said to be female when they were born).
- Their doctor encouraged them to live as a man for a while before undergoing surgical transition.
The definition of “woman” also includes a second definition that similarly reads “an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.”
One of the example sentences includes, “mary (sic) is a woman who was assigned male at birth.”
Christopher Rufo, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, brought attention to the news in a Twitter post on Monday.
“Cambridge Dictionary just dropped a new definition of ‘woman,’” Rufo tweeted.
Cambridge Dictionary just dropped a new definition of "woman." pic.twitter.com/qDb17DJP5H
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) December 12, 2022
Rufo also observed that the new definition used the pronoun “they” to describe a woman instead of “she.”
“Notice that the dictionary writers say ‘*they* may have been.’ They couldn’t bring themselves to write ‘she may have been,’ because they know they’re lying. That’s the tell,” he tweeted.
British commentator Adam Brooks also blasted the revised definitions.
“Oh wow, the @CambridgeWords dictionary definition of a woman is shocking, how did we get here?” he tweeted. “Surely women aren’t happy with this?”
Oh wow, the @CambridgeWords dictionary definition of a woman is shocking, how did we get here?
Surely women aren’t happy with this? pic.twitter.com/18FlgJEMwH
— Adam Brooks 🇬🇧 (@EssexPR) December 12, 2022
In addition to new definitions of “man” and “woman,” the dictionary offers an interesting explanation of the term “gender.”
“[A] group of people in a society who share particular qualities or ways of behaving which that society associates with being male, female, or another identity,” the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition says.
One of the example sentences reads, “‘The gender that you identify with isn’t always the same as your biological sex,’ he explained.”
Other words related to gender have also been updated. For example, the term “male” is defined as “belonging or relating to men,” while one of the example sentences reads, “He is one of the most prominent trans male athletes today.”
An example sentence for “female” reads, “She was the school’s first trans female athlete.”
The personal pronoun “ze” is also included in the dictionary. It is defined as “a personal pronoun sometimes used instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ because it does not show a particular gender.”
A Cambridge Dictionary spokesperson told the Daily Mail that the change for the definition of “woman” occurred in October.
“They carefully studied usage patterns of the word ‘woman’ and concluded that this definition is one that learners of English should be aware of to support their understanding of how the language is used,” a statement read. “The first definition at the entry for ‘woman’ remains unchanged and continues to be ‘an adult female human being.'”