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chairperson

[chair-pur-suh n]
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noun
  1. a person who presides over a meeting, committee, board, etc.
  2. the administrative head of a department in a high school, college, or university.
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Origin of chairperson

First recorded in 1970–75; chair(man) + -person
Related formschair·per·son·ship, noun
Can be confusedchair chairman chairperson chairwoman (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

Chairperson has, since the 1960s, come to be used widely as an alternative to either chairman or chairwoman. This change has sprung largely from a desire to avoid chairman, which is felt by many to be inappropriate and even sexually discriminatory when applied to a woman. In some organizations, notably academic and, to a lesser extent, governmental, chairperson has been adopted as the official term for anyone who fills the position in question. Some publishers and publications specify the use of chairperson in their style guides.
Despite such widespread acceptance, some newspapers, press associations, and other news media do not use chairperson at all, usually on the grounds that it is awkward and that chairman is a well-established generic term covering both sexes. Some publications and organizations use the term chair to designate the presiding officer, thus avoiding charges of both sexism and awkwardness: Jim will be chair of the entertainment committee this year, and Jane will be chair next year. Chairperson is standard in all varieties of speech and writing. See also -man, -person, -woman.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for chairperson

chairperson

noun
  1. another word for chairman (def. 1)
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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

Word Origin and History for chairperson

n.

1971, American English, from chair (n.) + person.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper