sex

noun
\ ˈseks How to pronounce sex (audio) \

Definition of sex

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures In the past, couples could hold fast to their dreams about their baby's sex until the moment of truth in the delivery room.— Jacquelyn Mitchard
b : the sum of the structural, functional, and sometimes behavioral characteristics of organisms that distinguish males and females Doctors can alter the physical characteristics of sex, but bodily sex does not determine gender.— Dinitia Smith
c : the state of being male or female … Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex.— Tamar Lewin
d : males or females considered as a group He gave the minister a sly look, daring him to disparage the female sex.— Evelyn Anthony
2a : sexually motivated phenomena or behavior

sex

verb
sexed; sexing; sexes

Definition of sex (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to identify the sex of sex newborn chicks
2a : to increase the sexual appeal of often used with up
b : to arouse the sexual desires of

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Are gender and sex the same? Usage Guide

Noun

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.

Examples of sex in a Sentence

Noun The form asks for your name, age, and sex. The couple didn't know what the sex of their baby would be. How do you tell the sex of a hamster? discrimination on the basis of sex Some feel men are the more aggressive sex. All he ever thinks about is sex. Her mom talked to her about sex. She doesn't like all the sex and violence in movies. He had sex with his girlfriend.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Read More: Saudi Prince’s Year of Prestige Is Unraveling in Front of Him The government has ended a ban on driving for women, allowed music and entertainment and lifted restrictions on both sexes mingling in public. Donna Abu-nasr, Bloomberg.com, "Saudi Prayers No Longer Disrupt Shopping in Time of Coronavirus," 20 May 2020 One of the findings shows a disparity between men and women—although both sexes have been infected in roughly equal numbers, the death rate among men was higher. Claire Gillespie, Health.com, "Why Does the Coronavirus Kill More Men Than Women? We Asked Experts," 10 Apr. 2020 Staff won't know the cubs' sexes until Echo has bonded with her cubs and staff can get a closer look safely. Rachael Lallensack, Smithsonian Magazine, "Watch Live as the National Zoo’s Cheetah Gives Birth to a Litter of Cubs," 9 Apr. 2020 While sex's supposed positive effects on your immune system is widely reported, the actual research tells a slightly more complicated story. Elizabeth Gulino, refinery29.com, "Does Sex Really Boost Immunity?," 3 Apr. 2020 The anchoring tension is between sex’s transformative possibility and the ever-present danger of harm, whether psychic, social, or even that of violence and infection. Julian Lucas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 6 Jan. 2020 High school years ahead and mothers will be replaced by buddies, clans and hangout pals of both sexes. Susan Glaser, cleveland, "Thanks for the memories, Cedar Point: Readers recall their favorite park moments," 3 May 2020 Human-like rats For the first experiment, Keysers and his team trained 24 rats of both sexes to push two different levers that produced a treat, until the animals developed a preference for one lever. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 5 Mar. 2020 Patrons entered through the same door, stood in the same line and ordered from baristas of both sexes. Vivian Yee, New York Times, "Saudi Society Is Changing. Just Take a Look at These Coffeehouses.," 15 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But bring the kids anyway to this daftly sexed-up production. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Where Barrie Kosky, Europe’s hot opera director, wants to make his American splash," 12 Sep. 2019 To make matters all the more thirsty, that poster’s genitalia-like woodlands surround a smooching couple who appear to be a sexed-up version of beastiality tale Beauty and The Beast. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "‘s Even Wilder Sex Play," 20 Jan. 2020 The preppy East Coast label has collaborated with everyone from Sacai and Supreme to Vetements, but West’s topper was a fresh foil for her typically sexed-up take on sportswear. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Kim Kardashian West Has a New Favorite Outerwear Brand," 13 Dec. 2018 Yandy’s ark of offerings is evidence that pretty much any animal can be sexed up, although not all animals are equally alluring. Rachel Sugar, Vox, "Why are “sexy” cats a thing?," 26 Oct. 2018 The most sexed-up take on the look saw one guy swaggering down the runway like a cheeky gunslinger. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Are You Ready for the Return of Tighty-Whities? Gucci Sure Is," 25 Sep. 2018 Wills is officially headed to paradise, or, at least, sexed-up Bachelor Nation spin-off series Bachelor In Paradise, as People announced. refinery29.com, "Can We Start The Wills Reid For Bachelor Campaign Right Now?," 10 July 2018 The classic look would often get sexed up with spit curls that lay slicked to the forehead, at the nape of the neck, or in front of the ear, thanks to the influence of Josephine Baker. Rebecca Norris, Allure, "Watch 100 Years of Iconic Short-Hair Trends in Under Four Minutes," 22 May 2018 Each walleye harvested by the tribes is measured and sexed. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: Researchers document walleye decline in Wisconsin waters," 9 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sex.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of sex

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1878, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sex

Noun

Middle English, from Latin sexus

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Learn More about sex

Time Traveler for sex

Time Traveler

The first known use of sex was in the 14th century

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Statistics for sex

Cite this Entry

“Sex.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sex. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for sex

sex

noun
How to pronounce sex (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sex

: the state of being male or female
: men or male animals as a group or women or female animals as a group
: physical activity in which people touch each other's bodies, kiss each other, etc. : physical activity that is related to and often includes sexual intercourse

sex

noun
\ ˈseks How to pronounce sex (audio) \

Kids Definition of sex

1 : either of two divisions into which many living things can be divided according to their roles in reproduction and which consist of males or females
2 : the state of being male or female The form asks for your name, age, and sex.
3 : sexual activity

sex

noun
\ ˈseks How to pronounce sex (audio) \

Medical Definition of sex

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as male or female especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures In the past, couples could hold fast to their dreams about their baby's sex until the moment of truth in the delivery room.— Jacquelyn Mitchard
b : the sum of the structural, functional, and sometimes behavioral characteristics of organisms that distinguish males and females Doctors can alter the physical characteristics of sex, but bodily sex does not determine gender.— Dinitia Smith
c : the state of being male or female Inherited risks refer here to biological vulnerability to illness because of one's sex.— Lois M. Verbrugge
2a : sexually motivated phenomena or behavior

Medical Definition of sex (Entry 2 of 2)

: to identify the sex of techniques for sexing human embryos

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More from Merriam-Webster on sex

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sex

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sex

Spanish Central: Translation of sex

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sex

Comments on sex

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