August 24, 2017

The Etymology of 'man' and some words for woman

The term man (from Proto-Germanic *mannaz or *manwaz "man, person") and words derived from it can designate any or even all of the human race regardless of their sex or age....The word developed into Old English man, mann meaning primarily "adult male human" but secondarily capable of designating a person of unspecified gender, "someone, one" or humanity at large... 

However, man in traditional usage (without an article) refers to the species, to humanity, or "mankind", as a whole. The usage persists in all registers of English although it has an old-fashioned tone. Equating the term for the male with the whole species is common in many languages, for example in French (l'Homme). On the other hand, some languages have a general word for 'human individual' which can apply to people of either gender. German has the general word Mensch, but Mann for (adult) male person.  Latin has the general word homo and for males the word vir.  The Latin word for woman is femina......The Latin root word 'man' means “hand" from which we get manual, manuscript, manufacture, and manicure.  In Old English the words wer and wīf  were used to refer to "a man" and "a woman" from which we get werwolf and wife.

Some wonderful words for women

Belladonna - Literally “fair lady” in Italian, belladonna can mean a deadly plant used to enhance beauty in the 15th century, or it can mean an equally venomous woman.

Colleen - an unmarried girl

Coquette - a woman who flirts lightly.

Dowager - any high-class, wealthy, or dignified elderly woman

Doyenne - the feminine version of a badass leader who possesses the trifecta for power: seniority, authority, and rank.

Duenna - a female guardian

Harridan - a particularly vicious older woman

Mavourneen - From the Irish for “my love,” a mavourneen is a darling.

Termagant - A trouble-making woman, prone to fits of violence or brawling

Regina - Regina has long been the official title for a queen

Slattern - an untidy or slovenly lady.

Virago - Once meant a woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage; a woman who has the robust body and masculine mind of a man - a female warrior.  It's come to mean a domineering, violent, or bad-tempered woman.

Vixen  -  a spiteful or quarrelsome woman.

Posted by Jill Fallon at August 24, 2017 3:29 PM | Permalink