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The term womxn is an alternative spelling of the English word woman. Womxn, along with the term womyn, has been found in writing since the 1970s to avoid perceived sexism in the standard spelling, which contains the word man.[1]

The term "womxn" has been adopted by various organizations, including student university groups in the US and UK, who call it more inclusive of trans and nonbinary people than women and other alternative spellings.[2][3][4] Conversely, it has been criticized for being unnecessary or confusing, conflicting with the uncommonness of mxn to describe men.[5][6][7] The use of womxn as a gender-inclusive alternative to woman has also been criticized for having the transphobic implication that trans women are not women but are a separate category (womxn).[8][9]


The word woman is derived from the Old English word wīfmann ('woman-person'), which is formed from wīf (the source of wife), then meaning 'woman', and mann (the source of man), then meaning 'person, human', originally without connotations of gender.[10][11] Man took on its additional masculine meaning in the Late Middle English period, replacing the now-obsolete word wer.[12] This has created the present situation with man bearing a dual meaning—either masculine or nonspecific.[13]

Second wave feminism developed several alternative political spellings of the word woman, such as womyn.[14] Keridwen Luis, a sociologist at Brandeis University, states that feminists have experimented for decades to devise a suitable alternative for the term identifying the female gender. Such terms have included wimmin (in the 1990s), based upon the original Old English term, and womyn (since at least 1975).[15][16][17]


Dictionary.com, which added womxn to its dictionary in 2019,[18] defines womxn as "used, especially in intersectional feminism, as an alternative spelling to avoid the suggestion of sexism perceived in the sequences m-a-n and m-e-n, and to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary people."[2] The Oxford English Dictionary added womxn in 2021, and defines it as "adopted by some as a more inclusive alternative to womyn, which is perceived as marginalizing certain groups, especially ethnic minority and transgender women."[19]

In 2017, The Boston Globe called the term "a powerful, increasingly popular label, encompassing a broader range of gender identities than 'woman'—or even older feminist terms such as 'womyn' ... a nontraditional spelling for people whose gender identity doesn’t fit in the traditional boxes".[15] In 2018, Jennie Kermode, chair of Trans Media Watch, stated that the organization would not use the term, considering that women already includes trans women.[20] In a 2019 Styles article published in The New York Times, journalist Breena Kerr stated that while womxn was difficult to pronounce, it was "perhaps the most inclusive word yet",[16] using a similar approach to the term "Latinx". Sociologist Nita Harker praised the term's ambiguity in pronunciation, saying that it forces users to "stop and think".[15]

Current uses[edit]

Womxn's March on Seattle, 2018

In 2017, the Womxn's March on Seattle chose to use the term "womxn" to promote the march. Elizabeth Hunter-Keller, the event's communications chair, told The New York Times that they chose it based upon the recommendation of a core organizer, who was a nonbinary person, and to reflect the organizing group's diversity. Hunter-Keller reported that although there were some questions, most supporters encouraged the choice.[16] In January 2018, Portland held the Indigenous Womxn's March, dedicated to missing and murdered indigenous girls, women, and transgender people.[21]

In October 2019, the Wellcome Collection, a museum and library in London, made an announcement through Twitter using the term to demonstrate their goal of including diverse perspectives; after complaints from hundreds of followers, the museum later apologized and removed the term from its website.[16][22] Labour Party politician Jess Phillips responded to the incident by saying, "I've never met a trans woman who was offended by the word woman being used, so I'm not sure why this keeps happening".[20] Clara Bradbury-Rance of King's College London conjectured that the push-back was because the use of the term was seen as too simplistic and a "fix-all".[20]

On March 1, 2021, the streaming platform Twitch used the term "Womxn" to promote events celebrating Women's History Month. The event was announced through Twitter, which led to immediate backlash from various users who considered the term transphobic for implying that trans women are not women but a separate category (womxn). Twitch removed the tweet and apologised, stating that they wanted to use the word to acknowledge the shortcomings of gender-binary language and that they would use the term "women" moving forward.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scupin, Raymond (2012). Cultural anthropology: a global perspective (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson. p. 96. ISBN 978-0205158805.
  2. ^ a b "Definition of womxn". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  3. ^ Guy, Jack. "Women or 'womxn'? Students adopt inclusive language". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  4. ^ Lencki, Maria (10 January 2019). "'Woman,' 'womxn' or 'womyn': Campus feminist groups opt for alternative spelling". The College Fix. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  5. ^ Topping, Alexandra (10 October 2018). "Wellcome Collection excoriated over use of term 'womxn.'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  6. ^ Wharton, Jane (27 November 2018). "Students replace word women with womxn because term 'men' is offensive". Metro. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  7. ^ J. M. J. Marvuso et al, "Overcoming Essentialism in Community Psychology", in Floretta Boonzaier, Taryn van Niekerk (eds.), Decolonial Feminist Community Psychology (2019, Springer, ISBN 9783030200015), page 12
  8. ^ a b "Twitch backtracks after outcry for using 'gender neutral' term 'womxn'". BBC. March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Kelleher, Patrick (March 2, 2021). "Twitch apologises for using the word 'womxn': 'We're still learning'". PinkNews. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  10. ^ Scupin, Raymond (2012). Cultural anthropology: a global perspective (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson. p. 96. ISBN 978-0205158805. (for derivation of 'woman' from 'man')
  11. ^ "wīfmann": Bosworth & Toller, Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Oxford, 1898–1921) p. 1219. The spelling "wifman" also occurs: C.T. Onions, Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford, 1966) p. 1011
  12. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, entry for "woman".
  13. ^ Merriam Webster, entry for "man".
  14. ^ D. Hatton. "Womyn and the 'L': A Study of the Relationship between Communication Apprehension, Gender, and Bulletin Boards" (abstract), Education Resources Information Center, 1995.
  15. ^ a b c Peters, Mark (9 May 2017). "Womyn, wimmin, and other folx". Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d Kerr, Breena (14 March 2019). "What Do Womxn Want?". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  17. ^ Luis, Keridwen (2020). "Keridwyn Luis". Brandeis University. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  18. ^ Spector, Nicole (8 April 2019). "'Male gaze', 'imposter syndrome' and 'womxn' among Dictionary.com's new words of 2019". NBC News. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  19. ^ "womxn, n." OED Online. March 2023. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  20. ^ a b c Regan, Alex (2018-10-10). "Should women be spelt womxn?". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
  21. ^ Buck, Kate (11 October 2018). "Why are people getting so angry at changing the spelling of 'woman' to 'womxn'?". Metro.uk. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  22. ^ Guy, Jack (27 November 2018). "Women or 'womxn'? Students adopt inclusive language". CNN. Retrieved 23 June 2020.