Entry printed from Oxford English Dictionary Online

Copyright Oxford University Press 2007

gender, n.


({sm}d{zh}{ope}nd{schwa}(r) Also 4 gendre[a. OF. gen(d)re (F. genre) = Sp. and Pg. genero, It. genere, ad. L. gener- stem form of genus race, kind = Gr. {gamma}{geacu}{nu}{omicron}{fsigma}, Skr. jnas:{em}OAryan *genes-, f. root {gamma}{epsilon}{nu}- to produce; cf. KIN.] 

    {dag}1. Kind, sort, class; also, genus as opposed to species. the general gender: the common sort (of people). Obs.

13.. E.E. Allit. P. B. 434 Alle gendrez so ioyst wern ioyned wyth-inne. c1384 CHAUCER H. Fame I. 18 To knowe of hir signifiaunce The gendres. 1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. VIII. xxix. (1495) 341 Byshynynge and lyghte ben dyuers as species and gendre, for euery shinyng is lyght, but not ayenwarde. 1602 SHAKES. Ham. IV. vii. 18 The great loue the generall gender beare him. 1604 {emem} Oth. I. iii. 326 Supplie it with one gender of Hearbes, or distract it with many. 1643 PRYNNE Sov. Power Parl. App. 153 The Governour..is a servant of the Ship..neither differs he from a mariner in gender, but in kind. 1662 R. MATHEW Unl. Alch. 22. 15 Diseases of this gender are for the most part incurable. 1727 Philip Quarll 218 To strike in him that Terror which the Gender of Death he had fix'd upon could not. 1784 R. BAGE Barham Downs I. 274, I..am a man of importance, a public man, Sir; of the patriotic gender.

    {dag}b. the nervous gender: the nervous system [= F. le genre nerveux].

1698 Phil. Trans. XX. 432 In other sorts of Distempers where the nervous Gender is attack'd.

    2. Gram. Each of the three (or in some languages two) grammatical ‘kinds’, corresponding more or less to distinctions of sex (and absence of sex) in the objects denoted, into which substantives are discriminated according to the nature of the modification they require in words syntactically associated with them; the property (in a n.) of belonging to, or (in other parts of speech) of having the form appropriate to concord with, a specified one of these kinds. Also, the distinction of words into ‘genders’, as a principle of grammatical classification.
  In the Indo-European langs. there were originally three genders, the masculine and feminine, to which respectively belonged the great majority of nouns denoting male and female persons or animals; and the neuter, including chiefly nouns denoting things without sex. But great numbers of words denoting inanimate objects were of the masculine or feminine gender, without even any figurative attribution of sex; and in some cases the names of objects possessing sex were of the neuter gender. In Semitic, and in the Romanic langs., there are only two genders, masculine and feminine. In many langs. the adjectives, and in some langs. the verbs, have inflexions depending on the gender of the ns. to which they syntactically refer. Mod. English has ‘natural’ as opposed to ‘grammatical’ gender; i.e. nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter according as the objects they denote are male, female, or of neither sex; and the gender of a noun has no other syntactical effect than that of determining the pronoun that must be used in referring to it. For common, epicene gender, see those words.
  [The Eng. use in this sense follows the Lat. use of genus, which in its turn is a rendering of the equivalent Gr. {gamma}{geacu}{nu}{omicron}{fsigma}. The formulation of the three grammatical genders ({tau}{gagrave} {gamma}{geacu}{nu}{eta} {tau}{gwfrown}{nu} {olenis}{nu}{omicron}{mu}{gaacu}{tau}{omega}{nu}, {alenisacu}{rho}{rho}{epsilon}{nu}{alpha} {kappa}{alpha}{gigrave} {theta}{ghacu}{lambda}{epsilon}{alpha} {kappa}{alpha}{gigrave} {sigma}{kappa}{epsilon}{guacu}{eta}) is ascribed by Aristotle Rhet. III. v. to Protagoras.]

a1380 St. Theodora 109 in Horstm. Alteng. Leg. (1878) 36 Hire name, {th}at was femynyn Of gendre, heo turned in to masculyn. 1387-8 [see 3]. 1509 HAWES Past. Pleas. V. xi, The Latyn worde whyche that is referred Unto a thynge whych is subtancyall, For a nowne substantyve is wel averred, And wyth a gender is declynall. 1581 SIDNEY Apol. Poetrie (Arb.) 70 Those combersome differences of Cases, Genders, Moodes, and Tenses, which I thinke was a peece of the Tower of Babilon's curse. 1612 BRINSLEY Pos. Parts (1669) 7 What is gender? A. The difference of nouns according to Sex..The difference, whereby a word is noted to signifie the male, or female, or neither; that is, either he or she, or neither of them. 1751 HARRIS Hermes I. iv. (1786) 61 Gender..descends to every Individual, however diversified. 1783 BLAIR Lect. Rhet. I. viii. 144 Gender, being founded on the distinction of the two sexes..can only find place in the names of living creatures, which admit the distinction of male and female. 1824 L. MURRAY Eng. Gram. (ed. 5) I. 76 Gender is the distinction of nouns, with regard to sex. There are three genders, the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter. 1887 EARLE Philol. Eng. Tongue (ed. 4) 383 In the English language as now current, the traditional Gender of ancient Grammar is entirely extinct.

    b. By some recent philologists applied, in extended sense, to the ‘kinds’ into which ns. are discriminated by the syntactical laws of certain languages the grammar of which takes no account of sex.
  Thus the North American Indian languages are said to have two ‘genders’, animate and inanimate. With still greater departure from the original sense, the name ‘genders’ has been applied to the many syntactically discriminated classes of ns. in certain South African langs.

    3. transf. Sex. Now only jocular.

1387-8 T. USK Test. Love II. iii. (Skeat) 13 No mo genders been there but masculine, and femynyne, all the remnaunte been no genders but of grace, in facultie of grammer. c1460 Towneley Myst. xxx. 161 Primus demon. Has thou oght writen there of the femynyn gendere? 1632 MARMION Holland's Leaguer III. iv, Here's a woman! The soul of Hercules has got into her. She has a spirit, is more masculine Than the first gender. 1709 LADY M. W. MONTAGU Let. to Mrs. Wortley lxvi. 108 Of the fair sex..my only consolation for being of that gender has been the assurance it gave me of never being married to any one among them. 1896 Daily News 17 July 6/4 As to one's success in the work one does, surely that is not a question of gender either.

    b. In mod. (esp. feminist) use, a euphemism for the sex of a human being, often intended to emphasize the social and cultural, as opposed to the biological, distinctions between the sexes. Freq. attrib.

1963 A. COMFORT Sex in Society ii. 42 The gender role learned by the age of two years is for most individuals almost irreversible, even if it runs counter to the physical sex of the subject. 1969 Erickson Educ. Found. Newslet. Spring 1/1 The Erickson Educational Foundation has been called upon to function in gender identity areas needing service not otherwise supplied. 1972 A. OAKLEY Sex, Gender & Society viii. 189 Sex differences may be ‘natural’, but gender differences have their source in culture. 1981 Heresies XII. 67/3 Our ideology and practice of sex roles construct..two mutually exclusive categories, that is, genders. 1985 Times Lit. Suppl. 5 Apr. 378/4 Without threatening gender models, she produced poetry good enough to praise. 1985 Times 2 Sept. 12/5 It is the tradition..that Christ is present and acts through all the sacraments, and is present and active also in various other ministrations of the church... There is nothing gender-specific to those. 1986 Financial Times 15 Apr. 8/4 It was most important..that schools could intervene in and modify the education of a child regardless of race, gender or class background.

    {dag}4. Product, offspring, generation. Obs. rare.

1637 BASTWICK Litany II. 9 Such a gender of filth that great frog left behind him. 1662 R. MATHEW Unl. Alch. 57. 66 This is to shew how they have been, and may be abused, in doing of which a most accursed gender of hell is born into the World.

    5. Special Comb.: gender-bender slang, a person (esp. a pop singer or follower of a pop cult) who deliberately affects an androgynous appearance by wearing sexually ambiguous clothing, make-up, etc.; freq. attrib.; hence gender-bending; also gender-blender, -blending; gender gap chiefly U.S., the difference in (esp. political) attitudes between men and women; cf. GAP n.1 6a.

1980 Economist 27 Dec. 48 The cult hallows ambiguous sexuality: Mr David Bowie, the rock star ‘*gender bender’, is a key hero. 1984 Sunday Mirror 22 Jan. 10/3 Gender Bender boys are mad about make-up and adore dressing up...Gender Benders are anything but gay. They make up and dress up out of a sense of fashion. 1986 Observer 13 July 25/3 Boy George became ubiquitous, first announcing himself as an outrageous dresser of ambiguous sexuality{em}Gender Bender in Fleet-speak.
1984 Ibid. 11 Mar. 47/1 This ‘*gender-bending’, as it has been dubbed, is not news in the world of popular music.
1983 Washington Post 6 Mar. H6/3 Boy George, with his urban beachcomber look and *gender-blender confusions, manages to fit in and stand out. 1985 TV Guide (Canada) 28 Sept. 12/1 Tootsie..is one gender-blender comedy with more going for it than the standard drag gags.
1984 Washington Post 11 Mar. G1 Not to mention all those other socio-pop labels{em}*gender-blending, drag, cross-dressing{em}that have sprung up in the wake of Michael Jackson, Boy George [etc.].
1977 D. MORRIS Manwatching 230 They argue that the *gender gap belongs to man's ancient past and is no longer relevant in the modern world. 1982 Newsweek 4 Oct. 19/2 The White House is opening the loophole to help close the ‘gender gap’{em}data that show women are disproportionately dubious about administration policies.


    gender, n.

  * gender-neutral n. (of a word or expression) not specifying gender; (also) suitable for or applicable to both males and females.

1974 Jrnl. Marriage & Family 36 477/1 An effort was made to include approximately equal numbers of male- and female-related words in addition to a few supposedly ‘*gender-neutral’ terms, such as kissing, buttocks, sexual intercourse, and masturbate. 1975 Jrnl. Philos. 72 731 Such uses of ‘man’ etc. where a gender-neutral term belongs are instances of a common practice in which the name of a high-status member or subset is used as a generic name for the whole class to the disadvantage of the remaining members of the class. 1987 Amer. Ethnologist 14 790/1 By what kind of political and administrative mechanisms can technology be rendered gender-neutral and of benefit therefore to hard-pressed rural women? 1993 Eng. Today Apr. 55/2 It is no longer socially acceptable to use he or his as gender-neutral pronouns in sentences such as ‘When the author returns his corrected proof’.