The Cambridge Dictionary has added a supplementary definition of “woman” that includes transgender individuals.
“An adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth,” Cambridge added in a secondary description of the meaning of “woman.” It offered examples of how the word might apply to the transgender context in sentences.
“She was the first trans woman elected to a national office,” one read. “Mary is a woman who was assigned male at birth,” was another.
It is unclear when the secondary definition was added. As of March 2022, the primary definition of “woman” as “an adult female human being” was all that was visible, according to archives. The page may have been updated last week, according to a Google search.
The dictionary generated a number of related words and phrases with its SMART vocabulary feature. Among them were “gender reassignment” and “top surgery.”
Cambridge is not the first dictionary to adapt its definition of “woman” to accommodate transgender activists. In July, Merriam-Webster’s publisher added a secondary definition of “female” that defines the term as “having a gender identity that is the opposite of male.” The online dictionary implied that gender is malleable and not directly connected to sex.
Its primary definition, like Cambridge’s, recognized the importance of female anatomy and reproductive capacity. “Of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs,” it read.
The CDC has also worked to normalize language that erases the biological lines between men and women. In a glossary involving nutrition for infants and young children, the government agency states that men are capable of breastfeeding. It defines “chest feeding” as: “A term used by many masculine-identified trans people to describe the act of feeding their baby from their chest, regardless of whether they have had chest/top surgery (to alter or remove mammary tissue).”
So far, Oxford, Collins, and Macmillan online dictionaries have not added supplementary “gender-fluid” definitions of “woman.”