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Oxford Dictionary updates the definition of ‘woman’

Sanjana Rajeev 17th November 2020


A revolutionary move (Source: CNN)


The Oxford University Press (OUP) has decided to update the definition of the word 'woman' in its dictionaries after it was accused of being 'sexist'. The dictionary was said to have discriminated against women after they were called on by an online petition which gained over 34,000 signatures.


The petition was set up last year by a London based communication strategist and campaigner, Maria Beatrice Giovanardi where they worked towards eliminating all the phrases and definitions that discriminate against or patronize women.


Following the change, in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, It has acknowledged for the very first time that a 'woman' can be "a person's wife, girlfriend or female lover" with the prior definition being "a man's wife, girlfriend or lover." This also included the updated definition of 'man' to "a person's husband, boyfriend or male lover" with the prior being "a husband or a lover". The review also looked into the synonyms associated with women such as 'wench', 'piece' and other derogatory words where some of these being removed from the dictionary and the word 'bitch’ being labelled as offensive.


"The petition also aims to enlarge the dictionary's entry for women, and include examples representative of minorities, for example, a transgender woman, a lesbian woman and this review have developed into an ongoing project, and OUP has also reexamined language on race, diversity, and the use of the pronoun 'they' for nonbinary people this year, according to the statement." as reported by USA Today.


"This is completely unacceptable by a reputable source like the Oxford University Press, but it's even more worrying when you consider how much influence they have in setting norms around our language and this can influence the way that women are spoken about online." Giovanardi wrote in the petition as reported by USA Today.


The organization claimed that all these were a part of 'ongoing effort' to 're-examine' the language and labellings and make it up to date and relevant for the 'modern audience'.


(Sources: USA Today, CNN, Independent UK)

Edited by: Aparna Jayabal P, Tanya Jain, Anjali Dinesh


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