OED updates gender …

September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

The latest Word of the Day from the OED to land in my box also informs me that the last new inclusions and updates are ready for our perusal. So off I trawl to see that woman and gender are two entries in the greatest dictionary on Earth that have been reworked. I thought it might be interesting to compare the 2011 online entry for gender and that in the two volume-with-accompanying-magnifying glass version of a colleague from 1981.

The noun gender appears in the first volume of the 1981 OED on p 1127 with four senses in the following order

1.  kind, sort or class

2. grammatical gender – i.e. the marking of nouns as masculine, feminine or neuter

3. sex

This category now has the proviso only jocular and seems to contain a few quotes from the medieval period to the late 19th century ending with a piece from the daily News, 17 July 1896 – as to the success in the work one does, surely that is not a question of gender either.

Hmmm jocular? How do you tell?

4. Product, offspring (now rare)

‘Such a gender of filth that great frog left behind him’ is the quote from Bastwick(‘s?) Letany which supports that.


The 2011 supplement begins with

1. grammatical gender

2. A class of things with related properties or characteristics

This gender of diseases is incurable wrote Matthews in The Unlearned Alchemist 1662

Sense 3 of 1981 is now 2b, the frog quote remains but Matthews’ Unlearned Alchemist makes an appearance here too…

3. Men and women viewed as a group.

This sense has a number of subsenses including

the state of being a man or a woman as cultural or social descriptions rather than biological factors

Another secondary meaning of this sense is ‘electronic gender’, by which i mean the kinds of plugs male and female that computers might have

Below is the dominant meaning of the third sense and I wonder how many are outraged by the gender = sex implication!

a. gen. Males or females viewed as a group; = sex n.1 1. Also: the property or fact of belonging to one of these groups.


Following the sense is a nicely illustrated list of phrases and compounds made from gneder and other parts  – including gender-bender, genderblender, and genderfuck, gender gap, gender bias.  None of these appear in the earlier edition.



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