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[jen-der] /ˈdʒɛn dər/
either the male or female division of a species, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behavior:
the feminine gender.
Compare sex (def 1).
a similar category of human beings that is outside the male/female binary classification and is based on the individual's personal awareness or identity.
See also third gender.
  1. (in many languages) a set of classes that together include all nouns, membership in a particular class being shown by the form of the noun itself or by the form or choice of words that modify, replace, or otherwise refer to the noun, as, in English, the choice of he to replace the man, of she to replace the woman, of it to replace the table, of it or she to replace the ship. The number of genders in different languages varies from 2 to more than 20; often the classification correlates in part with sex or animateness. The most familiar sets of genders are of three classes (as masculine, feminine, and neuter in Latin and German) or of two (as common and neuter in Dutch, or masculine and feminine in French and Spanish).
  2. one class of such a set.
  3. such classes or sets collectively or in general.
  4. membership of a word or grammatical form, or an inflectional form showing membership, in such a class.
Archaic. kind, sort, or class.
Origin of gender1
1300-50; Middle English < Middle French gendre, genre < Latin gener- (stem of genus) kind, sort
Related forms
genderless, adjective
Usage note
Although it is possible to define gender as “sex,” indicating that the term can be used when differentiating male creatures from female ones biologically, the concept of gender, a word primarily applied to human beings, has additional connotations—more rich and more amorphous—having to do with general behavior, social interactions, and most importantly, one's fundamental sense of self.
Until recently, most people assumed that acknowledging one's gender, or sex, was easy. You just checked the appropriate box on a standard form, choosing either “male” or “female,” according to the gender you had been assigned at birth based on visible anatomical evidence. But some people's internal sense of who they are does not correspond with their assigned gender. And in fact, we now recognize that a complex spectrum between male and female exists not only mentally, psychologically, and behaviorally, but also anatomically; there have always been biologicallyintersex people.
Gender identity is complicated. Some people, perhaps most, do not question their assigned gender. But others perceive themselves as belonging to the opposite sex. Still others, some of whom identify themselves as genderqueer see themselves as neither male nor female, or perhaps as both, or as rotating between genders, or even as not belonging to any gender categorization at all.
Those who clearly see themselves as the opposite sex may or may not want to transition to it in some measure. Of those who do, some may complete that transition, but others may be happy to stop partway on a path that can include dressing and behaving like the opposite sex, although the desire to cross-dress can exist quite apart from issues of gender identity. Somewhere along the transitional path people may want to change their given names and adopt linguistic terms of their own choosing, including a variety of pronouns, as designations of themselves and others. Some will have hormone treatments and opt for various kinds of surgery—perhaps facial, perhaps on their bodies, perhaps ultimately including sex “reassignment” surgery (genital reconstruction). At any point, they may welcome or reject a “transsexual” or “transgender” label.
This array of life experiences has resulted in a veritable explosion of new, or newly adapted, vocabulary. Particularly striking and useful is the word cis or prefix cis- as in cis male, cis female, and cisgender, designating those whose sense of self matches their assigned gender. Using cis is a way to refer to these individuals without implying that “cis” people are the norm and all others a deviation from “normal.” It is notable that choices of gender beyond male and female are even appearing on social media sites. Clearly, gender is no longer a simple binary concept, if it ever was.


[jen-der] /ˈdʒɛn dər/
verb (used with or without object)
Archaic. to engender.
Obsolete. to breed.
1300-50; Middle English gendren, genderen < Middle French gendrer < Latin generāre to beget, derivative of genus gender1, genus Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for gender


a set of two or more grammatical categories into which the nouns of certain languages are divided, sometimes but not necessarily corresponding to the sex of the referent when animate See also natural gender
any of the categories, such as masculine, feminine, neuter, or common, within such a set
(informal) the state of being male, female, or neuter
(informal) all the members of one sex: the female gender
Derived Forms
genderless, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French gendre, from Latin genus kind
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gender

c.1300, "kind, sort, class," from Old French gendre (12c., Modern French genre), from stem of Latin genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, family; kind, rank, order; species," also (male or female) "sex" (see genus) and used to translate Aristotle's Greek grammatical term genos.

The grammatical sense is attested in English from late 14c.; the male-or-female sense from early 15c. As sex took on erotic qualities in 20c., gender came to be the common word used for "sex of a human being," often in feminist writing with reference to social attributes as much as biological qualities; this sense first attested 1963. Gender-bender is first attested 1980, with reference to pop star David Bowie.


"to bring forth," late 14c., from Old French gendrer, from Latin generare "to engender" (see generation). Related: Gendered; gendering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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gender in Medicine

gender gen·der (jěn'dər)

  1. The sex of an individual, male or female, based on reproductive anatomy.

  2. Sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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gender in Culture

gender definition

A grammatical category indicating the sex, or lack of sex, of nouns and pronouns. The three genders are masculine, feminine, and neuter. He is a masculine pronoun; she is a feminine pronoun; it is a neuter pronoun. Nouns are classified by gender according to the gender of the pronoun that can substitute for them. In English, gender is directly indicated only by pronouns.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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