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Cambridge Dictionary updates definitions of 'woman,' 'man' to include transgender people

By AYIE LICSI Published Dec 14, 2022 8:06 pm

Cambridge Dictionary added a new definition to the words "woman" and "man" to include transgender people.

The definition was updated in October, a spokesperson told The Washington Post on Dec. 13, but it only gained attention after the Telegraph reported about it.

An additional entry can now be seen to the terms—"woman" is now also defined by the dictionary as "an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth."

Some examples of the word in use include, "She was the first trans woman elected to a national office" and "Mary is a woman who was assigned male at birth."

The dictionary's editors made the change after studying how the words were being used across society. 

“They carefully studied usage patterns of the word woman and concluded that this definition is one that learners of English should be aware of to support their understanding of how the language is used,” Sophie White, a spokeswoman with Cambridge University Press and Assessment, told The Post.

However, Cambridge is not the first to adapt its definition to include transgender individuals. In July, Merriam-Webster added a supplementary definition to the word "female," which now states the term as "having a gender identity that is the opposite of male." The definition of "male" was similarly changed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also worked to normalize language erasing biological lines between men and women. In its glossary, it added the term "Chestfeeding" for masculine-identified trans people who feed their babies from their chests.

Public reaction

The definition of "woman" has been the subject of contention in recent years, with trans women excluded from the term. Conservatives online have slammed the new definition, claiming it is "erasing real women."

Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America's largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive update. 

"Dictionaries don't define languages used. They explain how it is already being used generally," HRC spokesperson Laurel Powell said. "We know there is a rising tide of acceptance of LGBTQ+ people broadly, and that's certainly inclusive of trans people. You are seeing a reflection of what is already widely accepted."