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Womyn is one of a number of alternative spellings of the word "women".[1] In this article "womyn" will be used for simplicity, although there are many alternative spellings, including "womon", "womin". "wimmin" and "wymyn". The term has been used in modern times tied to the concept of feminism, as a form of the word without the connotations of a patriarchal society. In essence, respelled so as not to contain "men".


The early meaning of the English word "man" (from Proto-Germanic mannaz, "person", and perhaps from proto-Indo-European reconstructed ghmon-[2]) and some words derived therefrom designated any or all human beings regardless of gender or age. This may be the oldest recorded or reconstructed usage of "man". In Old English the words wer and wyf (also wæpman and wifman) were used to refer to "a male" and "a female" respectively, and the word "man" was gender neutral. (This is still seen even today in certain words. For an example, there is the word "werewolf", which literally means man-wolf. In German "man" is a gender-neutral general subject, while "Mann" means man.) Later, in Middle English, "man" displaced wer as the term for male humans, whilst wyfman, which eventually evolved into "woman", was retained for female humans. Since then, the word "man" has been used to refer to male humans and to humanity as a whole (e.g., "Mankind").[3][4]

The earliest use of the term "womyn" attested in the Oxford English Dictionary is in the name of a 1975 "womyn's festival" mentioned in a lesbian publication.[5]


  1. D. Hatton. "Womyn and the 'L': A Study of the Relationship between Communication Apprehension, Gender, and Bulletin Boards" (abstract), Education Resources Information Center, 1995.
  2. Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, by Eric Partridge (N.Y.: Greenwich House, 1966/1983), entry for man (IE).
  3. Spender, Dale. Man-Made Language.
  4. Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift. The Handbook of Non-Sexist Language.
  5. "Womyn." Oxford English Dictionary.

Further reading

  • Sol Steinmetz. "Womyn: The Evidence," American Speech, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 429–437
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