Gender-neutral language

Gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions, as well as avoidance of the pronouns he, him and his to refer to people of unknown or indeterminate gender.[1] For example, the words policeman[2][3] and stewardess[4][5] are gender-specific job titles; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are police officer[6][7] and flight attendant.[8][9] Other gender-specific terms, such as actor and actress, may be replaced by the originally male term; for example, actor used regardless of gender.[10][11][12] Some terms, such as chairman,[13][14] that contain the component -man but have traditionally been used to refer to persons regardless of sex are now seen by some as gender-specific.[15] When the gender of the person referred to is unknown or indeterminate, the third-person pronoun he may be avoided by using gender-neutral alternatives – possibilities in English include singular they, he or she, or s/he.

Sign explaining inclusive language in spanish
Sign with specific suggestions for gender-neutral language use in Spanish.

Terminology and views


Historically, the use of masculine pronouns in place of generic was regarded as non-sexist, but various forms of gender-neutral language became a common feature in written and spoken versions of many languages in the late twentieth century. Feminists argue that previously the practice of assigning masculine gender to generic antecedents stemmed from language reflecting "the prejudices of the society in which it evolved, and English evolved through most of its history in a male-centered, patriarchal society."[16] During the 1970s, feminists Casey Miller and Kate Swift created a manual, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing, on gender neutral language that was set to reform the existing sexist language that was said to exclude and dehumanize women.[17] In the 1980s, many feminist efforts were made to reform the androcentric language.[18] It has become common in some academic and governmental settings to rely on gender-neutral language to convey inclusion of all sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language).[19][20]

Various languages employ different means to achieve gender neutrality:

Other particular issues are also discussed:

Gender indication

There are different approaches in forming a "gender-neutral language":

  • Neutralising any reference to gender or sex, like using "they" as a 3rd person singular pronoun instead of "he" or "she", and proscribing words like actress (female actor) and prescribing the use of words like actor for persons of any gender. Although it has long been accepted in the English language, traditionalists argue that using "they" as a singular pronoun is considered grammatically incorrect, but acceptable in informal writing.[21]
  • Indicating the gender by using wordings like "he or she" and "actors and actresses". However, some forms of indicating gender for gender-neutrality, are labeled gender-binary.[22]
  • Avoiding the use of "him/her" or the third person singular pronoun "they" by using "the" or restructuring the sentence all together to avoid all three.[21]

Examples of gender indication in occupational titles:[23]

Gendered Title Gender Neutral Title
businessman, businesswoman business person/person in business, business people/people in business
chairman, chairwoman chair, chairperson
mailman, mailwoman, postman, postwoman mail carrier, letter carrier, postal worker
policeman, policewoman police officer
salesman, saleswoman salesperson, sales associate, salesclerk, sales executive
steward, stewardess flight attendant
waiter, waitress server, table attendant, waitron
fireman, firewoman firefighter
barman, barwoman bartender

See also

In specific languages

Related topics


  1. ^ Fowler, H.W. (2015). Butterfield, Jeremy (ed.). Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-966135-0.
  2. ^ "policeman - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  3. ^ "policeman definition, meaning - what is policeman in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  4. ^ "stewardess - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  5. ^ "steward definition, meaning - what is steward in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  6. ^ "police officer - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  7. ^ "police officer definition, meaning - what is police officer in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  8. ^ "flight attendant - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  9. ^ "flight attendant definition, meaning - what is flight attendant in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  10. ^ "actor - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  11. ^ "actress - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  12. ^ "actor definition, meaning - what is actor in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  13. ^ "chairman - Definition and pronunciation - Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  14. ^ "chairman definition, meaning - what is chairman in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  15. ^ Lowry, Howard. "Tone: A Matter of Attitude". Retrieved 2015-01-28.
  16. ^ Carolyn Jacobson. "Some Notes on Gender-Neutral Language". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  17. ^ "Gender neutral language -". Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  18. ^ Flanagan, J. (March 1, 2013). "The Use and Evolution of Gender Neutral Language in an Intentional Community". Women & Gender.
  19. ^ "Leitfaden der Gleichstellungsbeauftragten zur geschlechtersensiblen und inklusiven Sprache" (in German). Gleichstellungsbeauftragte an der Universität zu Köln. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  20. ^ "Tips for Using Inclusive, Gender Neutral Language". Marquette University. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  21. ^ a b "Gender Neutral Language in Writing". Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  22. ^ "Glossar zur Grünen Jugend" (in German). Grüne Jugend Dortmund. 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  23. ^ Government of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada. "Guidelines for gender-neutral language - Language articles - Language Portal of Canada". Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-03.

Further reading

  • Bojarska, Katarzyna (2012). "Responding to lexical stimuli with gender associations: A Cognitive–Cultural Model". Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 32: 46. doi:10.1177/0261927X12463008.
Constitution of Vermont

The Constitution of the State of Vermont is the fundamental body of law of the U.S. state of Vermont. It was adopted in 1793 following Vermont's admission to the Union in 1791 and is largely based upon the 1777 Constitution of the Vermont Republic which was ratified at Windsor in the Old Constitution House and amended in 1786. At 8,295 words, it is the shortest U.S. state constitution.


Epicenity is the lack of gender distinction, often specifically the loss of masculinity. It includes androgyny – having both masculine and feminine characteristics.

The adjective gender-neutral may describe epicenity (and both terms are related to the terms gender-neutral language, gender-neutral pronoun, gender-blind, and unisex).

Feminist effects on society

The feminist movement has effected change in Western society, including women's suffrage; greater access to education; more equitable pay with men; the right to initiate divorce proceedings; the right of women to make individual decisions regarding pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion); and the right to own property. Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker argues that feminism has reduced domestic violence, especially against men as their likelihood of being killed by a female intimate partner has decreased six-fold.

Gender-neutral title

A gender neutral title is an honorific title that does not indicate the gender of the person being formally addressed, such as in a letter or other communication, or when introducing the person to others. By comparison, the traditional honorifics of Miss, Mrs, Ms and Mr all indicate the binary gender of the individual.

The newer term "Mx" avoids specifying gender not only for persons who wish not to indicate a binary gender (male or female) but also for persons whose gender identity does not fit the gender binary. Honorifics are used in situations when it is inappropriate to refer to someone only by their first or last name, such as when addressing a letter "Dear Mx Jones" or when introducing the person to others. Activists, supporters and others are working toward awareness and acceptance of alternative honorifics including Mx.

Gender in Bible translation

Gender in Bible translation concerns various issues, such as the gender of God and generic antecedents in reference to people. Many in today’s churches have become conscious of and concerned about sexism. Bruce Metzger states the English language is so biased towards the male gender that it may restrict and obscure meaning from original languages. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) was one of the first major translations to adopt gender-neutral language. The King James Version translated at least one passage using a technique that many now reject in other translations, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). The Greek word υἱοὶ that appears in the original is usually translated as "sons", but in this passage the translators chose to use the term "children" that included both genders. Opponents of gender neutral language believe that readers who are not familiar with the original languages, can be influenced by a compromised meaning they believe is feminist.There are two translations that are particularly notable for their efforts to take radical steps in this regard, both explaining their reasons and their techniques in their front matter. The titles of the two translations are similar, but the two translations are distinct. The first is The Inclusive New Testament (1994), the second is The New Testament and Psalms: an Inclusive Version (1995). The first one deliberately tried to make the text agree with their creed, pointing out that when they saw problems with the message of the text "it becomes our license to introduce midrash into the text" (p. xxi). It is an original translation. The second one, however, is based on the NRSV, making changes as the editorial team saw fit, but being less radical to change the message of the original.

Gender marking in job titles

A gender-specific job title is a name of a job that also specifies or implies the gender of the person performing that job. For example, in English, the job title stewardess implies that the person is female; the job title policeman implies that the person is male. A gender-neutral job title, on the other hand, is one that does not specify or imply gender, such as firefighter or lawyer. In some cases it may be debatable whether a title is gender-specific; for example, chairman appears to denote a male (because of the ending -man), but the title is also applied sometimes to women.

Proponents of gender-neutral language generally advocate the use of gender-neutral job titles, particularly in contexts where the gender of the person in question is not known or not specified. For example, they prefer flight attendant to stewardess or steward, and police officer to policeman or policewoman. In some cases this may involve deprecating the use of certain specifically female titles (such as authoress), thus encouraging the use of the corresponding unmarked form (such as author) as a fully gender-neutral title.

The above applies to gender neutrality in English and in some other languages without grammatical gender (where grammatical gender is a feature of a language's grammar that requires every noun to be placed in one of several classes, often including feminine and masculine). In languages with grammatical gender, the situation is altered by the fact that nouns for people are often constrained to be inherently masculine or feminine, and the production of truly gender-neutral titles may not be possible. In such cases, proponents of gender-neutral language may instead focus on ensuring that feminine and masculine words exist for every job, and that they are treated with equal status.

Gender neutrality

Gender neutrality (adjective form: gender-neutral), also known as gender-neutralism or the gender neutrality movement, is the idea that policies, language, and other social institutions (social structures, gender roles, or gender identity) should avoid distinguishing roles according to people's sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another.

Gender neutrality in English

Gender-neutral language is language that minimizes assumptions about the social gender or biological sex of people referred to in speech or writing. In contrast to most other Indo-European languages, English does not retain grammatical gender and most of its nouns, adjectives and pronouns are therefore not gender-specific.

Gender neutrality in Spanish

Feminist language reform has proposed gender neutrality in languages with grammatical gender, such as Spanish. Grammatical gender in Spanish refers to how Spanish nouns are categorized as either masculine (often ending in -o) or feminine (often ending in -a). As in other Romance languages—such as Portuguese, to which Spanish is very similar—a group of both males and females, or someone of unknown gender, is usually referred to by the masculine form of a nouns and or pronoun. Advocates of gender-neutral language modification consider this to be sexist, and favor new ways of writing and speaking. Activists against sexism in language are also concerned about words whose feminine form has a different (usually less prestigious) meaning.

Gender neutrality in languages with grammatical gender

Gender neutrality in languages with grammatical gender is, in the context of a language having grammatical gender categories, the usage of wording that is balanced in its treatment of the genders in a non-grammatical sense.

For example, advocates of gender-neutral language challenge the traditional use of masculine nouns and pronouns (e.g. "he") when referring to two or more genders or to a person or people of an unknown gender in most Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages, often inspired by feminist ideas about gender equality. Gender neutrality is also used when one wishes to be inclusive of people who identify as non-binary genders or as genderless.

Genderless language

A genderless language is a natural or constructed language that has no distinctions of grammatical gender—that is, no categories requiring morphological agreement between nouns and associated pronouns, adjectives, articles, or verbs.The notion of a "genderless language" is distinct from that of gender-neutral language, which is neutral with regard to natural gender. A discourse in a genderless language need not be gender-neutral (although genderless languages exclude many possibilities for reinforcement of gender-related stereotypes); conversely, a gender-neutral discourse need not take place in a genderless language.Genderless languages do have various means to recognize natural gender, such as gender-specific words (mother, son, etc., and distinct pronouns such as he and she in some cases), as well as gender-specific context, both biological and cultural.Genderless languages are listed at List of languages by type of grammatical genders. Genderless languages include the Indo-European languages Armenian, Bengali, Persian and Central Kurdish (Sorani Dialect), all the Uralic languages (such as Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian), all the modern Turkic languages (such as Turkish), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and all the Austronesian languages (such as the Polynesian languages),.

Generic antecedent

Generic antecedents are representatives of classes, referred to in ordinary language by another word (most often a pronoun), in a situation in which gender is typically unknown or irrelevant. These mostly arise in generalizations and are particularly common in abstract, theoretical or strategic discourse. Examples (with the antecedent in boldface and the referring pronoun in italics) include "readers of Wikipedia appreciate their encyclopedia," "the customer who spends in this market."

The question of appropriate style for using pronouns to refer to such generic antecedents in the English language became politicized in the 1970s, and remains a matter of substantial dispute.

Land der Berge, Land am Strome

"Land der Berge, Land am Strome" (German pronunciation: [lant dɐ ˈbɛɐ̯ɡə lant ʔam ˈʃtʁoːmə]; Land of mountains, land by the river) is the national anthem of Austria.

Nineteen days before his death on 5 December 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his last complete work, the Freimaurerkantate, K. 623. In parts of the printed edition of this cantata there appeared the song K. 623a "Lasst uns mit geschlungnen Händen" ("Let us with joined hands"). To this melody the Austrian national anthem is sung. Today, Mozart's authorship is regarded as dubious and the song is attributed to Johann Holzer (1753–1818). The lyrics were written by Paula von Preradović, one of the few women to have written lyrics for a national anthem. On 22 October 1946, the song was declared Austria's official national anthem. On 1 January 2012, parts of the lyrics were changed to make the anthem gender-neutral.

Before the World War II Anschluss, Austria's anthem was "Sei gesegnet ohne Ende", to the tune of Haydn's "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser", the anthem of imperial Austria since 1797. The Lied der Deutschen uses the same tune, but with different words, and was also the anthem of the Third Reich. To avoid the association, and because singing it was banned for a time after the war, a new anthem was created.


Latinx ( lə-TEE-neks, la-) is a gender-neutral term sometimes used in lieu of Latino or Latina (referencing Latin American cultural or racial identity). The plural is Latinxs. The -x replaces the standard -o and -a endings in Italian, Sicilian, Sardinian, Spanish and related languages, which form nouns of the masculine and feminine genders, respectively. The term is a neologism that has gained traction among advocacy groups intersectionally combining the identity politics of race and gender. Other forms such as Latin@ and, sometimes, Latine (the French feminine gender noun for the French masculine gender noun, Latin) are also used.

Mx (title)

Mx, usually pronounced MIKS or MUKS and sometimes em-EKS, is an English language neologistic honorific that does not indicate gender. It was developed as an alternative to common gendered honorifics, such as Mr and Ms, in the late 1970s. It is often used by nonbinary people, as well as those who do not wish to reveal or be referred to by their gender. It is a gender-neutral title that is now widely accepted by the Government of the United Kingdom and many businesses in the United Kingdom. It is included in all major English dictionaries.

New American Bible Revised Edition

The New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) is an English-language Catholic Bible translation, the first major update in 20 years to the New American Bible (NAB), originally published in 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Released on March 9, 2011, it consists of the 1986 revision of the NAB New Testament with a fully revised Old Testament approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2010.Approved for private use and study by Catholics, the NABRE has not received approval for Catholic liturgical use. Although the revised Lectionary based on the original New American Bible is still the sole translation approved for use at Mass in the dioceses of the United States, the NABRE New Testament is currently being revised so that American Catholics can read the same Bible translation in personal study and devotion that they hear in Mass.

New International Version

The New International Version (NIV) is an English translation of the Bible first published in 1978 by Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society). The NIV was published to meet the need for a modern translation done by Bible scholars using the earliest, highest quality manuscripts available. Of equal importance was that the Bible be expressed in broadly understood modern English.

A team of 15 biblical scholars, representing a variety of denominations, worked from the oldest copies of reliable texts, variously written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Each section was subjected to multiple translations and revisions, and those assessed in detail to produce the best option. Everyday Bible readers were used to provide feedback on ease of understanding and comprehensibility. Finally, plans were made to continue revision of the Bible as new discoveries were made and as changes in the use of the English language occurred.

The NIV is published by Zondervan in the United States and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. The NIV was updated in 1984 and 2011, and has become one of the most popular and best selling modern translations.

Significant other

Significant other (SO) is colloquially used as a gender-neutral term for a person's partner in an intimate relationship without disclosing or presuming anything about marital status, relationship status, or sexual orientation. Synonyms with similar properties include sweetheart, better half, other half, spouse, domestic partner, lover, soulmate, or life partner.

In the United States, the term is sometimes used in invitations, such as to weddings and office parties. This use of the term has become common in the UK in correspondence from hospitals, e.g., "you may be accompanied for your appointment by a significant other".

Singular they

Singular they is the use in English of the pronoun they or its inflected or derivative forms, them, their, theirs, and themselves (or themself), as an epicene (gender-neutral) singular pronoun. It typically occurs with an unspecified antecedent, as in sentences such as:

"Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Would they please collect it?"

"The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay."

"But a journalist should not be forced to reveal their sources."The singular they had emerged by the 14th century, about a century after plural they. It has been commonly employed in everyday English ever since then, though it has become the target of criticism since the late-19th century. Its use in formal English has become more common with the trend toward gender-neutral language, though most style guides continue to proscribe it.In the early 21st century, use of singular they with known individuals has been promoted for those who do not identify as either male or female.

"This is my friend, Jay. I met them at work."

Gender in

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