the male, female, or sometimes intersex division of a species, especially as differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions or physical characteristics such as genitals, XX and XY chromosomes, etc.
a label assigned to a person at birth, usually male or female and sometimes intersex, and typically based on genital configuration.: See Usage note at the current entry.
the sum of the structural and functional differences by which male, female, and sometimes intersex organisms are distinguished, or the phenomena or behavior dependent on these differences: These plants change sex depending on how much light they receive.
the sexual instinct or attraction drawing one organism toward another, or its manifestation in life and conduct: choosing a life partner based on sex.
sexual relations or activity, especially sexual intercourse: young kids learning about sex.
the genitals; genitalia: A towel was hiding his sex from view.
to ascertain the sex of or assign a sex to, especially newly-hatched chicks.
sex up, Informal.
to arouse sexually: The only intent of that show was to sex up the audience.
to increase the appeal of; to make more interesting, attractive, or exciting: I needed to sex up my résumé with bold fonts and snappy formatting.
Idioms about sex
to have sex, to engage in sexual relations, especially sexual intercourse.
In practice, however, the way that a person's sex is categorized depends on several characteristics: genitals, chromosomes, hormonal profiles, and external physical features such as the development of extensive facial hair or breast tissue. These characteristics do frequently occur together. For example, the majority of people born with XX chromosomes are also born with ovaries that produce eggs, and most also go on to develop more breast tissue during puberty. Male and female, when used of sex, usually refer to people who fit more or less into these common patterns of co-occurring characteristics.
However, there are people born with physical characteristics that do not fit neatly into these categories. For example, some people have XY chromosomes, but their cells cannot respond to androgens, meaning that they may develop a vagina and more breast tissue. Others are born with gonads that do not produce either sperm or egg cells. There are also people born with chromosomes that are XXY. Such conditions may be called intersex conditions, disorders of sex development, or differences of sex development. These terms are broad labels that do not constitute a discrete third sex, but rather identify variation in physical characteristics that does not fit into the male-female binary.
Like anyone else, a person with any of these conditions may identify as a man, a woman, or any other gender. Furthermore, a person's sex characteristics may or may not influence their gender, or their relationship with their gender. See gender1, intersex.
Other definitions for sex (2 of 3)
Other definitions for sex- (3 of 3)
a combining form, occurring in loanwords from Latin, meaning “six” (sexagenary); on this model used in the formation of compound words: sexpartite.
- Also sexi-.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use sex in a sentence
The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which called for equal pay among the sexes.Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Why He’s Exploring the Word ‘Feminism’ and Online Misogyny | Marlow Stern | September 22, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The significant difference between the sexes raises the question: Should we trust the numbers?C’mon, Ladies, Masturbation Isn’t Just for Bad Girls | Emily Shire | June 19, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
Or are they used in an evolutionary battle of the sexes over who has the last say in fertilization?
But the battle of the sexes school has a different take on the matter.
Perhaps, says Eberhard, even in species where battles of the sexes may seem to be fought, female discretion is key.
The habit of refreshing oneself with a pipe on some elevated spot which commands a fine view, is common to both sexes.Tobacco; Its History, Varieties, Culture, Manufacture and Commerce | E. R. Billings.
Beds, in those days, were warmed with copper warming pans, and nightcaps adorned the slumbering heads of both sexes.Fifty Years of Railway Life in England, Scotland and Ireland | Joseph Tatlow
Equipage after equipage began to roll up to the palace, and set down the most brilliantly attired company of both sexes.A Woman's Journey Round the World | Ida Pfeiffer
Both sexes were indiscriminately admitted, after a nice scrutiny into their qualifications.The Every Day Book of History and Chronology | Joel Munsell
Both sexes wear flowers in their ears, which have such large holes bored in them that the stalk can very easily be drawn through.A Woman's Journey Round the World | Ida Pfeiffer
British Dictionary definitions for sex (1 of 2)
the sum of the characteristics that distinguish organisms on the basis of their reproductive function
either of the two categories, male or female, into which organisms are placed on this basis
short for sexual intercourse
feelings or behaviour resulting from the urge to gratify the sexual instinct
sexual matters in general
of or concerning sexual matters: sex education; sex hygiene
based on or arising from the difference between the sexes: sex discrimination
(tr) to ascertain the sex of
British Dictionary definitions for sex- (2 of 2)
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
Scientific definitions for sex
Either of two divisions, male and female, into which most sexually reproducing organisms are grouped. Sex is usually determined by anatomy, the makeup of the sex chromosomes, and the type and amount of hormones produced. When the sex of an organism is determined by the sex chromosomes, males and females are generally produced in equal numbers. In other organisms, such as bees and wasps, in which females develop from fertilized eggs and males develop from unfertilized eggs, distribution of the sexes is unequal.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Other Idioms and Phrases with sex
see fair sex.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.