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How it happened to be ‘Woman’ from ‘Wimman’, ‘Quaen’ and ‘Wif’?




We all celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, every year. This is the day when people all around the world celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Have you ever thought about how did day celebration started or when was it first celebrated? As every event like Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, Bless Friday, Thanksgiving day, Cyber Monday, etc. is associated with some history of their origin. Likewise, the first Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 and the event was recognized by United Nations in 1975. But it also exerts pressure to think about the origin of the word “Woman”. The feminine gender of the society is called Woman or female mostly. Have you ever noticed ‘woman’ is a prefix of ‘man’ and ‘female’ is the prefix of ‘male’? Quite hilarious why are feminine common nouns always formed by adding a prefix to one that of men’s.

This is a great time to know how did the combination of two words ‘wife’ and ‘man’ formed the word ‘Woman’ for a singular and ‘Women’ as the plural.

Origin of the word ‘Woman’: Why does it have the word ‘man’ in it?

In old English was first being spoken in the 5th century AD, there were two distinct words used for men and women. They used “wer” meant adult male and “wif” meant adult female. Besides these, there was a third-word “man” which simply meant a person or human being. Far later on, these words were combined as ‘wer’ plus ‘man’ and took the form as ‘Waepman’ meant adult male person. Similarly, for the feminine ‘wif’ plus ‘man’ formed ‘Wifman’ meant adult female person.

However, spelling wasn’t consistent for everyone. Variations took place with the time forming; wifmon, wifmanna, and wifmone. But in the Middle English period, the word was standardized into ‘wimman’ and ‘wommon’. Thus, by the time 1600s, the word was polished into the versions as we know ‘Woman’-singular and ‘women’-plural.

However, the original Old English word ‘wif’ meant ‘adult female’ give rise to other forms all around. If we narrow its meaning into the term we know today is meant to a married woman.

Do you Know?

Some people today think that the word ‘woman’ is originated from the combination of ‘womb’ and ‘man’. Rather if we trace back to Old English, the origin of the word ‘woman’ is the combination of ‘wife’ and ‘man’.

“Quaen” Indo European word for Female:

Before the advent of the word ‘wifmon’, there was another word used for females. This word was ‘Quaen’ from the Indo-European base as the Sanskrit word, ‘jani’ and the Ancient Greek says it as ‘gyne’.

The word ‘Quaen’ meant ‘a female’ in the start, but with time its meaning degraded. Surprising point is that by the early Middle English age, this term got the meaning of abusing a bold and impudent woman or a prostitute.

Meanwhile, the word ‘Quaen’ also evolved the word ‘Queen’ which is used even today to refer to the feminine ruler of an independent state.

However, this gives us the lesson that the role of women in society has always been complex. Whatever were the old cases related to the origin of the word ‘woman’. The true fact that matters is the ‘woman’ is originally a compound of Old English words ‘woman’ and ‘human being’.

Origin of the word ‘Female’:

The origin of the word ‘female’ is from the Latin word “Femina” which meant woman. Whereas, the Latin word for man is ‘Vir’. Therefore, it states that the word ‘Female’ and ‘Male’ is not etymologically linked with each other. Rather ‘Female’ was formed just by changing the spelling of Femina in the 14th century.

Hebrew Bible’s Book of Genesis Terms:

If we look for the origin of the word ‘woman’ in the bible, then in Hebrew Bible’s book of Genesis have the Hebrew word for ‘man’ is ‘ ish’ and for ‘woman’ it is ‘ishah’. Logically it’s so because Eve was taken out of the man’s side stated in the following words in the bible:

“This is now bone of my bones

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called ‘woman’,

For she was taken out of man.”

Thus, it’s hard to judge what degree of language merely reflects a culture’s assumptions about the gender terms and to what degree it actively shapes them. In short, these aspects of the English Language involve a long history of belief that women are both dependent on and inferior to men.

Origin of the word ‘Girl’ and how was it first used?

Today, the word ‘girl’ is specifically used for a young woman. However, it had nothing to do with gender back in history. Some other words derived from the word ‘girl’ like ‘girly’ and ‘girlish’ suddenly pop the pink vision in our heads which denotes the opposite factor to what we denote as ‘many’ or ‘masculine’. Moreover, the word ‘girl’ is no more just a noun but something stereotypically and high-pitched weak, and delicate. Even though the word ‘girl’ is refined today to empower the feminine powers, the origin of the word ‘girl’ was neutral gender.

The greatest poet – Geoffrey Chaucer in the Middle Ages first used the word ‘girl’. He was the first to use in its present as a word spelled ‘gyrl’ was already used in Old English Language. Looking into flashback, the ‘gyrl’ meant a young person either a boy or a girl; the sex of the person didn’t matter. In the 1300s, when the writer wanted to differentiate the sex of the young person a qualifier was needed to add. Resultantly, a young boy was called a ‘knave girl’ and a young girl was called ‘gay girl’. Later on, with more transformation, a boy could also be called a ‘knave child’ and a girl referred to as ‘maiden child’. After few centuries the meaning of ‘girl’ as ‘young woman’ became more however less official as noted by Oxford English Dictionary.

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Sophia James is a creative and smart content developer with almost eight years of experience in design and marketing. She’s always striving for excellence in her job and is a great leader.

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