gender

1 of 3

noun

gen·​der ˈjen-dər How to pronounce gender (audio)
plural genders
1
a
: a subclass within a grammatical class (such as noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (such as shape, social rank, manner of existence, or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms see also natural gender
b
: membership of a word or a grammatical form in such a subclass
c
: an inflectional form (see inflection sense 2a) showing membership in such a subclass
2
a
: sex sense 1a
the feminine gender
b
: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
c
: gender identity
Those seeking state driver's licenses in Massachusetts are closer to being able to designate their gender as "X" instead of "male" or "female." The state Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for the nonbinary designation on licenses.Steve LeBlanc
Facebook's message was clear when the social media network added new gender options for users on Thursday: the company is sensitive to a wide spectrum of gender identity and wants users to feel accommodated no matter where they see themselves on that spectrum.Katy Steinmetz
Are gender and sex the same? Usage Guide

The words sex and gender have a long and intertwined history. In the 15th century gender expanded from its use as a term for a grammatical subclass to join sex in referring to either of the two primary biological forms of a species, a meaning sex has had since the 14th century; phrases like "the male sex" and "the female gender" are both grounded in uses established for more than five centuries. In the 20th century sex and gender each acquired new uses. Sex developed its "sexual intercourse" meaning in the early part of the century (now its more common meaning), and a few decades later gender gained a meaning referring to the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex, as in "gender roles." Later in the century, gender also came to have application in two closely related compound terms: gender identity refers to a person's internal sense of being male, female, some combination of male and female, or neither male nor female; gender expression refers to the physical and behavioral manifestations of one's gender identity. By the end of the century gender by itself was being used as a synonym of gender identity.

Among those who study gender and sexuality, a clear delineation between sex and gender is typically prescribed, with sex as the preferred term for biological forms, and gender limited to its meanings involving behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits. In this dichotomy, the terms male and female relate only to biological forms (sex), while the terms masculine/masculinity, feminine/femininity, woman/girl, and man/boy relate only to psychological and sociocultural traits (gender). This delineation also tends to be observed in technical and medical contexts, with the term sex referring to biological forms in such phrases as sex hormones, sex organs, and biological sex. But in nonmedical and nontechnical contexts, there is no clear delineation, and the status of the words remains complicated. Often when comparisons explicitly between male and female people are made, we see the term gender employed, with that term dominating in such collocations as gender differences, gender gap, gender equality, gender bias, and gender relations. It is likely that gender is applied in such contexts because of its psychological and sociocultural meanings, the word's duality making it dually useful. The fact remains that it is often applied in such cases against the prescribed use.

Usage of sex and gender is by no means settled. For example, while discrimination was far more often paired with sex from the 1960s through the 20th century and into the 21st, the phrase gender discrimination has been steadily increasing in use since the 1980s and is on track to become the dominant collocation. Currently both terms are sometimes employed with their intended synonymy made explicit: sex/gender discrimination, gender (sex) discrimination.

gender

2 of 3

verb (1)

gendered; gendering; genders

transitive verb

1
a
: to identify (someone) as being either male or female
Gendering children prior to their arrival into the world is a relatively new phenomenon.Jessie Gurunathan
b
: to treat (someone) as either male or female
From the moment that we chose her name … we have been, willy-nilly, gendering our daughter. So has everyone else. (The men in my neighborhood will shadowbox with any apparently male toddler who staggers by, whether or not he is interested; they never shadowbox with female toddlers.)Sherry Gorelick
2
a
: to design or create (something) for members of a particular sex
… at one stage we were going backwards in terms of gendering toys. "It sounds surprising, but analysis of toy catalogues shows that the gendered marketing of toys was more prevalent at the end of the 20th century than at the beginning," she [Dr. Rebecca Whiting] says.Suzanne Harrington
… Erin McNeill, founder and president of Watertown-based Media Literacy Now, advocates for integrating media literacy into the K-12 curriculum. "Some parents won't notice or be concerned about the gendering of products. It's important that all children have the opportunity to gain the critical thinking skills to understand how and why gendered ads target them," she says.Rebecca Hains
b
: to conceive of (something) as appropriate or suitable for members of a particular sex
… the problem with gendering sports is that it causes a divide and serves to exclude the marginalized group.The Manitoban
Others believe that clothing manufacturers started "gendering" clothing colors to sell more clothes to families by convincing them that only certain colors were appropriate for boys and others for girls.Elizabeth Tiernan
As the number of jobs for men dwindled, employers, reasserting man's role as bread-winner, came to define weaving, previously considered women's work, as men's work. … Geography is central to this process of the gendering of jobs and more generally to labor market segmentation …Susan Hanson
Davidoff and Hall's Family Fortunes, for example, has convincingly and influentially explored the ideological pressures that went into shaping the all-pervasive Victorian configuration of public roles and private spaces, and the relentless gendering of work, religion, and family structure.John Plotz
3
a
: to associate a gender or characteristics of a gender with (something)
Keep in mind that fragrance nomenclature can get a bit muddled, especially since we spent so many years gendering words like "cologne" for men and "perfume" for women.The Robb Report
For example, she notes that gender isn't just a fashionable modern preoccupation but an obsession of the eighteenth century when writers insisted on gendering such dualisms as "reason" and "feeling."Janet Todd
And finally, we may see how authors explore the gendering of political discourse; not only voices but political attitudes are encoded as masculine and feminine, and it is not unusual to find that female figures serve to criticize established political ideology.Harold MacGrath
b
: to analyze the role and effect of gender or sex in (something, such as a field of study or interest)
Women's experiences of homelessness are different than men's. [Lisa] Spring says that gendering homelessness begins with its very definition.Jess Klassen
Geographers have long led the research on hazards and disasters, but few have focused on gendering hazards, vulnerabilities, and disasters. … As the study by geographers Neumayer and Plumper (2007) demonstrates in data collected from around the world, more women compared to men are killed and injured in disasters.Farhana Sultana
Was Shakespeare gay? Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic? How does mainstream reading differ from that of subcultural groups? How does the formal study of literature handle such questions? In this lively book, Alan Sinfield engages with topics such as the gendering of literary culture, the sexual politics of psychoanalysis during the Cold War, and the history of cultural materialism …(catalog) University of Pennsylvania Press

gender

3 of 3

verb (2)

gendered; gendering ˈjen-d(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce gender (audio) ; genders

Examples of gender in a Sentence

Noun young people who are questioning their gender In Spanish, the adjective and noun must agree in number and gender. Some languages do not use genders.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Despite her gender struggles throughout her childhood and later, adulthood, Shaye kept her feelings to herself. Jordan Greene, Peoplemag, 12 June 2024 The historic rift in the United Methodist Church is part of a larger split in recent years in the Christian religion over issues of gender and sexuality. Kayla Jimenez, The Courier-Journal, 12 June 2024 Clark is igniting a firestorm around issues of race, gender, and the growth of women’s sports, by doing what she’s always done: playing basketball, with passion. Sean Gregory, TIME, 10 June 2024 The study also found that men are overwhelmingly happier and more confident in their financial abilities, despite financial health being equally important to both genders. Eva Roytburg, Fortune, 10 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for gender 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gender.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English gendre, from Anglo-French genre, gendre, from Latin gener-, genus birth, race, kind, gender — more at kin

Verb (1)

derivative of gender entry 1

Verb (2)

Middle English gendren, from Anglo-French gendrer, from Latin generare — more at generate

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (1)

1825, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gender was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near gender

Cite this Entry

“Gender.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender. Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

gender

noun
gen·​der
ˈjen-dər
1
b
: the behavioral, cultural, or emotional traits typically associated with one sex : gender identity
2
: any of two or more classes of words (as nouns or pronouns) or of forms of words (as adjectives) that are partly based on sex and that determine agreement with other words or grammatical forms

Medical Definition

gender

noun
gen·​der ˈjen-dər How to pronounce gender (audio)
1
2
: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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