The Cambridge Dictionary recently updated its entries for “man” and “woman” to include transgender people.
The updates went into effect in October but appear to have gained some attention in December when the dictionary’s expanded definition of “woman” garnered backlash from conservative commentators on social media, a spokesperson for the Cambridge Dictionary told CNN.
While the Cambridge Dictionary’s primary definition for “woman” remains “an adult female human being,” a second definition refers to “an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.”
Example sentences provided by the dictionary include “Mary is a woman who was assigned male at birth” and “Their doctor encouraged them to live as a man for a while before undergoing surgical transition.”
Africanews checks from the Cambridge dictionary showed that the original definition at the entry for woman remains unchanged and continues to be ‘an adult female human being’.
Dictionary.com announced “woman” as its 2022 word of the year, citing how “the very matter of the definition of the word ‘woman’ was at the centre of so many consequential moments, discussions, and decisions in our society.”
Despite the outcry deeming Cambridge Dictionary’s new definitions to be a political statement, the spokesperson said that such changes are meant to provide an accurate depiction of how certain words are used in society.
In 2020, Merriam-Webster expanded its definition of “female” to include “having a gender identity that is the opposite of male” – that change also drew criticism from conservatives, though a similar addition was made to the word “male.” The year before, Merriam-Webster added a new definition to the pronoun “they” to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.