The Oxford University Press, which oversees various dictionaries including the Oxford English Dictionary, has updated their definition of “woman” and “man.”
"We have expanded the dictionary coverage of 'woman' with more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner," according to a statement from OUP. "We have ensured that offensive synonyms or senses are clearly labelled as such and only included where we have evidence of real world usage."
For example, one of the definitions of “woman” now refers to a “person’s wife, girlfriend, or female lover,” and does not include language tying them to a man.
In addition, the definition of “man” and “woman” were updated to include gender-neutral terms and references to “sexual attractiveness or activity.”
The changes come after a 2019 Change.org petition that called for OUP to remove “sexist” terms for a woman. The petition cited examples from OUP based on the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition: “I told you to be home when I get home, little woman” and also “Ms September will embody the professional, intelligent yet sexy career woman.”
The petition also noted there were 25 examples listed for “man” and only 5 listed for “woman.”
OUP told CNN their lexicographers are reviewing examples in his dictionaries to make sure they are more representative. Some synonyms were removed, like “wench”, others were kept but have a label added noting the terms are offensive, derogatory or dated.
The definition of “housework” was also updated to remove gender; instead of “she still does all the housework,” an example was changed to “I was busy doing housework when the doorbell rang.”