View synonyms for woman



[ woom-uhn ]


, plural wom·en [wim, -in].
  1. an adult female person. Compare man ( def 1 ), girl ( def 1 ).
  2. a female employee or representative:

    A woman from the real estate agency called.

  3. Informal.
    1. a wife.
    2. a female lover or sweetheart.
  4. Older Use: Usually Offensive. a female employee who cleans a house, cooks, etc.; housekeeper.
  5. (in historical use) a female attendant to a lady of rank:

    Your woman informed us of your travel plans.

  6. the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women; womanliness:

    He has always loved and admired the woman in her.

  7. women collectively:

    Woman is no longer subordinate to man.

verb (used with object)

  1. to put into the company of a woman.
  2. to equip or staff with women.
  3. Obsolete. to cause to act or yield like a woman.


  1. of women; womanly.
  2. a woman plumber.


  1. a combining form of woman:

    chairwoman; forewoman; spokeswoman.


/ ˈwʊmən /


  1. an adult female human being
  2. modifier female or feminine

    woman talk

    a woman politician

  3. women collectively; womankind
  4. the woman
    feminine nature or feelings

    babies bring out the woman in her

  5. a female servant or domestic help
  6. a man considered as having supposed female characteristics, such as meekness or timidity
  7. informal.
    a wife, mistress, or girlfriend
  8. the little woman informal.
    one's wife
  9. woman of the streets
    a prostitute


  1. rare.
    to provide with women
  2. obsolete.
    to make effeminate

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Sensitive Note

Although formerly woman was sometimes regarded as demeaning and lady was the term of courtesy, woman is the designation preferred by most modern female adults: League of Women Voters; American Association of University Women. Woman is the standard feminine parallel to man. As a modifier of a plural noun, woman, like man, is exceptional in that the plural form women is used: women athletes; women students. The use of lady as a term of courtesy has diminished somewhat in recent years ( the lady of the house ), although it still survives in a few set phrases ( ladies' room; Ladies' Day ). Lady is also used, but decreasingly, as a term of reference for women engaged in occupations considered by some to be menial or routine: cleaning lady; saleslady. girl, lady, -woman.

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Gender Note

Feminine compounds ending in -woman are equivalent to the masculine compounds with -man. When the person referred to is a woman, the feminine form is often, but not always, used: alderman, alderwoman; assemblyman, assemblywoman; chairman, chairwoman; congressman, congresswoman; spokesman, spokeswoman; businessman, businesswoman. However, some forms ending in -man are applied to women, and occasionally terms ending in -man are specified by legal code: Alderman Dorothy Lavelle. In general, the practice in current edited written English is to avoid the -man form in reference to a woman or the plural -men when mixed genders are involved. Instead, a gender-neutral term is used: councilmembers rather than councilmen and councilwomen; representative or legislator rather than congressman or congresswoman. chairperson, -man, -person.

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Derived Forms

  • ˈwoman-ˌlike, adjective
  • ˈwomanless, adjective

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Other Words From

  • wom·an·less adjective
  • an·ti·wom·an adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of woman1

First recorded before 900; Middle English womman, wimman, Old English wīfman(n), wīfmon(n), equivalent to wīf “female, wife, woman” + man(n) “human being, man”; wife, man

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Word History and Origins

Origin of woman1

Old English wīfmann, wimman; from wife + man (human being)

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. be one's own woman, (of females) to be free from restrictions, control, or dictatorial influence; be independent.

More idioms and phrases containing woman

see feel like oneself (new woman) ; marked man (woman) ; (woman) of few words ; own person (woman) ; right-hand man (woman) ; scarlet woman .

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Synonym Study

Woman, female, lady are nouns referring to an adult female human being, one paradigm of gender and biological sex for adult human beings. Woman is the general term. It is neutral, lacking either favorable or unfavorable implication, and is the most commonly used of the three: a wealthy woman; a woman of strong character, of unbridled appetites. In scientific, statistical, and other objective use, female is the neutral contrastive term to male and may apply to plants and animals also: 104 females to every 100 males; Among lions, the female is the chief hunter. Female is sometimes used in disparaging contexts: a gossipy female; a conniving female. Lady meaning “refined, polite woman” is a term of approval or praise: a real lady in all things; to behave like a lady. When used as a form of address, lady may be polite or neutral in tone: Ladies, did you hear about the new brunch menu with bottomless mimosas? However, in the singular it is often perceived as rude: Hey, lady, I don’t have all day.

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Example Sentences

A fourth suspect, a 26-year-old woman named Hayat Boumeddiene, remains at large.

In 2009, a Pakistani Christian woman got into a religious argument with some Muslim women with whom she was harvesting berries.

It is the summit of human happiness: the surrender of man to God, of woman to man, of several women to the same man.

While 19 percent of the House is female, just one woman will get to chair one of its 20 committees.

Instead, the man and woman in the truck wanted to know where the crash site was and whether would I show them.

She was also supposed to be the original or model of “the Virtuous Woman” therein portrayed!

The aged woman made no reply; her eyes still studied Ramona's face, and she still held her hand.

There are three things a wise man will not trust: the wind, the sunshine of an April day, and woman's plighted faith.

I find myself chained to the foot of a woman, my noble Cornelia would despise!

Woman is mistress of the art of completely embittering the life of the person on whom she depends.


Related Words

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Words That Use -woman

What does -woman mean?

The combining form -woman is used like a suffix meaning “woman,” most often to indicate a woman who performs a particular job or function. It is often used in a variety of technical and everyday terms.

The form -woman ultimately comes from the Old English wīfmann, meaning “woman” or, more literally, “female person,” from wīf, “woman” or “wife,” and mann, which was then a gender-neutral term for an adult person. Want to know more? Check out our Words That Use entry for -wife.

What are variants of -woman?

The plural form of -woman is -women, as in saleswomen. An ending that’s less commonly used but means the same thing is -lady, as in saleslady. The male equivalent of -woman is -man, as in salesman. However, use of this kind of gendered language for professions has decreased in recent years, with gender-neutral terms often being preferred. Namely, the ending -person is often used, as in salesperson. Some terms are changed altogether, such as mail carrier being used instead of mailman. Still, some people may prefer to use the gender-specific version of a term that applies to them—a mailman may prefer to call himself a mailman and congresswoman may prefer to call herself a congresswoman, for example.

For more guidance, check out the guide to gender-neutral language.

Examples of -woman

The form -woman is used in many different words and is especially associated with professions, such as businesswoman and camerawoman. But the -woman ending in all of these words can also be replaced with -man. Most terms now have commonly used gender-neutral equivalents, including congresswoman (congressperson or representative), policewoman (police officer), and chairwoman (chairperson or just chair).

What are some words that use the combining form -woman?

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.