Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


an adult female person

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun woman has been used in English since the earliest days of the language. It is formed from a combination of the nouns wife meaning woman and man meaning human being.


Yesterday was International Women‘s Day, an annual celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is one of the oldest of such days, having been celebrated since 1910. (Before you ask, there is an International Men’s Day too, celebrated annually on 19 November, though it is a lot less venerable, having existed since 1992). As you might expect, woman is a very frequent word with several meanings and it appears as part of a multitude of compounds and phrases. You can find some of them by looking at the ‘Other entries’ box at the entry for woman. There is a related adjective womanly, which itself has a derived noun, womanliness. Womanhood is the state of being a woman, while womankind refers to all women as a group. The term woman has been contested and alternatives including wimmin, womyn and, most recently, womxn,  proposed. Although the latter has not (yet) achieved very widespread use, it is gaining acceptance; I saw it used recently in my local cinema programme. There are several thesaurus entries related to woman and you can explore these by clicking on the ‘Synonyms and Related Words’ links below each sense.


“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
(Audre Lorde)

“But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
(Jane Austen, Persuasion)

Related words

womanhood, womankind, womenfolk, womxn

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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