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Oxford English Dictionary Updates Definition Of “Woman” Over Sexist Reference

Oxford Dictionary

Oxford Dictionary | Image: PA

The Oxford English Dictionary has updated its definition of the word “woman” following complaints that it was “sexist”.

In the latest edition of the dictionary, the publisher altered dozens of terms including “woman”, “man”, “housework” and “high-maintenance”.

The changes come after a petition was set up last year by campaigner Maria Beatrice Giovanardi to get rid of all phrases and definitions that discriminate against or patronise women. The petition criticised the dictionaries’ inclusion of “bitch”, “bint”, “wench” and other offensive remarks, among its list of synonyms for women.

The updated edition of the dictionary acknowledges that a woman can be “a person’s wife, girlfriend or female lover”. The previous definition was limited to “a man’s wife, girlfriend or lover”.


There are also several new terms used within the definition including “woman of the moment” and “woman of the match” as well as the working example “with that money, a woman could buy a house and put two kids through college”.

The previously listed synonyms, which included “wench”, “bint” and “bitch”, have also been addressed. “Bint” and “bitch” remain but have been labelled as offensive. “Wench” has been removed entirely.

campaign organiser Maria Beatrice Giovanardi | Image: (

The definition of “man” has also undergone a similar revamp to reflect the modern age and now reads as “a person’s husband, boyfriend or male lover”.

“Housework” has had its working examples tweaked from “she still does all the housework” to “I was busy doing housework when the doorbell rang”.

This is also true for the term “high-maintenance”. It previously stated, “if Martin could keep a high-maintenance girl like Tania happy, he must be doing something right’ but this has since been updated to ‘I freely admit to being high-maintenance”.

A spokesman for Oxford University Press told The Telegraph: “We have undertaken an extensive review of the dictionary and thesaurus entries, and usage examples, for ‘woman’ and for many related terms.

“We have expanded the dictionary coverage of ‘woman’ with more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner.

“We have ensured that offensive synonyms or senses are clearly labelled as such and only included where we have evidence of real world usage.”

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