Gender neutral language in English

From Nonbinary Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Gender neutral language in English is easier than gender neutral language (also called gender inclusive language) in many other languages, because its grammatical gender is less pervasive than in, say, German or French. See the main article on gender neutral language for general reasons to use neutral language, common problems in using it, and its use for nonbinary people.

History[edit | edit source]

Although English has grammatical gender, it's only a vestige of what it once had. Old English once had grammatical gender for inanimate objects, but this practice started to disappear in the 700s, and vanished in the 1200s. The population of England at that time spoke several languages, and the same inanimate objects had different genders in those different languages. They may have stopped using that part entirely just to make it simpler. English stopped using grammatical gender for inanimate objects, but it still uses grammatical gender for people and personal pronouns.[1] There is enough to make a challenge for nonbinary people who don't want gendered language to be used for them.

Gender-neutral language has become common in English today largely thanks to the pioneering work by feminists Casey Miller and Kate Swift. During the 1970s, they began the work of encouraging inclusive language, as an alternative to sexist language that excludes or dehumanizes women. Miller and Swift wrote a manual on gender-neutral language, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing (1980). Miller and Swift also proposed a set of gender-neutral pronouns, tey, although they later favored singular they, or he or she.[2] There are several books on gender-neutral English, such as Rosalie Maggio's book The Nonsexist Word Finder: A Dictionary of Gender-Free Usage (1989).

Words and alternatives[edit | edit source]

This is a list of both standard (dictionary) and non-standard (created) terms and pronouns to include nonbinary identities. It should be noted that while some are genderless or third gender, others are multigender. Terms will be marked with the implied gender identity when possible.

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

See main article at English neutral pronouns.

Titles[edit | edit source]

See main article at Gender neutral titles.

Common nouns[edit | edit source]

Type of common noun Feminine Masculine Gender inclusive (could be masculine or feminine) Specifically nonbinary
Young person Girl, maiden Boy, youth Child, kid, infant, teen, tween, young person Enby
Adult person Woman, lady Man, gentleman Adult, gentlebeing, gentleperson, grownup Enby, enban
Person of any age Female Male Being, puman, human being, one, person, somebody, someone Enby

Family and relationship words[edit | edit source]

See also: family and intimacy.

Parent[edit | edit source]

Parents as in the formal words mother or father, or the informal mama or dada. Gender-neutral and gender-inclusive words for a parent of any gender, or non-standard specifically nonbinary, queer, or genderqueer words. A list in alphabetical order.

  • Baba. "Neutral, based on mama and dada. (Note, baba means dad in some languages and grandmother in others.)"[3]
  • Bibi. "Queer, based on the B in NB [nonbinary], similar to mama and papa/dada."[3]
  • Cenn. "Neutral, short for cennend," which see.[3]
  • Cennend. "Neutral, Old English (Anglo-Saxon) meaning parent."[3]
  • Dommy. "Queer, mixture of mommy and daddy (note: sounds like Dom/me, a BDSM term)."[3]
  • Mada. Queer, mixture of mama and dad.
  • Maddy. "Queer, mixture of mummy/mommy and daddy."[3]
  • Moddy. "Queer, mixture of mommy and daddy."[3]
  • Muddy. "Queer, mixture of mummy and daddy."[3]
  • Nini. "Queer, based on the N in NB, similar to mama and papa/dada."[3]
  • Non. Follows a similar pattern (CvC) to Mom or Dad, could be short for "nonbinary". Variation Nonny for use with young children, similar to Mommy or Daddy.
  • Par. "Neutral, short for parent."[3]
  • Parent. "Neutral, formal."[3]
  • Parental Unit (PU). Neutral, informal, humorous, possibly disrespectful. Used by the alien family in Coneheads, and taken up by popular culture.[3]
  • Per. "Neutral, short for parent."[3] (See also: per pronouns and Pr title.)
  • Zaza. "Queer, based on mama and papa/dada."[3]
  • Zither. "Queer, based on mother and father. (Note, zither is also the name of a musical instrument.)"[3]

Child[edit | edit source]

Some of these gender-inclusive or gender-queer words refer only to relationship (as in daughter, son, or offspring), others only to age (girl, boy, or young one), and some to both (children). Alphabetical order.

  • Baby. Standard neutral word for very young offspring or very young people.
  • Bitsy. Non-standard genderqueer term for a very young person.[3]
  • Charge. Standard gender neutral word for a person in the care of another, often one's child.
  • Child. Standard gender neutral word for a young person or an offspring. Implied age isn't adult, but may be.
  • Dependent. A person who relies on another-- usually a family member who may or may not be their parent-- for financial support; this is most often used as a standard gender-neutral word for a child too young to work. Formal.
  • Enby. From "NB (nonbinary)", a nonbinary equivalent of the words "boy" and "girl." However, some adults call themselves enbies.
  • Get. Poetic language for offspring.
  • Kid. Standard informal gender neutral term for young children or young offspring.
  • Little one. Neutral word for a very young child or young offspring.
  • Minor. Standard gender-neutral word for a person under the legal age of consent.
  • Nesser. Non-standard genderqueer term for "daughter/son".[3]
  • Offspring. Neutral, standard word, but not usually used for people, except in legal language.
  • Oldest. Neutral, a way of speaking of one's offspring by saying "my oldest," rather than saying "my daughter/son."[3]
  • Sprog. Neutral, crude word for a young person.[3]
  • Youth. Neutral, poetic word for a young person, but usually implied to be male.
  • Young. Neutral, standard word for offspring, but not usually used for people ("my young.")
  • Youngest. Neutral, a way of speaking of one's offspring by saying "my youngest," rather than saying "my daughter/son."[3]
  • Young one. Neutral, poetic.
  • Young person. Neutral, standard, formal.
  • Ward. Standard gender-neutral word for a person, usually a child, under the care of an adult, who may or may not be their parent. Formal.

Aunt/Uncle[edit | edit source]

Standard English doesn't have a gender neutral word for one's parent's sibling. People have created some words to fill this lexical gap, but they are still uncommon words. Alphabetical order.

  • Auncle. "Queer, combination of aunt and uncle."[3]
  • Avaunt. It derives from the roots of both "aunt" and "uncle", the anglo-French "aunte" and the Latin "avunculus".
  • Bibi. "Queer, based on the B in NB [nonbinary], similar to Titi/Zizi."[3]
  • Cousin. "Neutral, as sometimes people say aunt/uncle for parents’ cousins, or much older cousins."[3]
  • Nini. "Queer, based on the N in NB, similar to Titi/Zizi."[3]
  • Ommer. Non-standard genderqueer term for "aunt/uncle".
  • Pibling. "Neutral, your parent’s sibling."[3]
  • Titi. "Neutral, from the Spanish for Aunt (Tia) and Uncle (Tio). (however, it is often a diminutive of aunt.)"[3]
  • Zizi. "Neutral, from the Italian for Aunt (Zia) and Uncle (Zio). (Note: zizi is also a French children’s ‘cute’ word for penis.)"[3]
  • Untie/Unty. "Queer, combination of uncle and auntie/aunty."[3]

Niece/Nephew[edit | edit source]

Standard English doesn't have a gender neutral word for one's sibling's child. People have created some words to fill this lexical gap, but they are still uncommon words. Alphabetical order.

  • Chibling. "Neutral, the children of you sibling."[3]
  • Cousin. "Neutral, as sometimes people say niece/nephew for cousins’ children, or much younger cousins."[3]
  • Nespring. A mix of offspring and the Latin word nepos, from which both niece and nephew are derived.
  • Nibling. Non-standard gender neutral term for "niece/nephew". Coined by linguist Samuel E. Martin in 1951 from nephew/niece by analogy with sibling.
  • Niecew. "Queer, mixture of niece and nephew."[3]
  • Nieph. "Queer, mixture of niece and nephew."[3]
  • Nephiece. "Queer, mixture of nephew and niece."[3]
  • Sibkid. "Neutral, short for sibling’s kid."[3]

Grandparent[edit | edit source]

Gender-neutral or genderqueer words for grandparent. Alphabetical order.

  • Bibi. "Queer, based on the B in NB, similar to nana and papa."[3]
  • Grandparent. "Neutral, formal."[3]
  • Grandwa. "Queer, based on grandma and grandpa."[3]
  • Grandy.' "Neutral, short for Grandparent, Grandma or Grandpa."[3]
  • Nini. "Queer, based on the N in NB, similar to nana and papa."[3]

Sibling[edit | edit source]

Gender-neutral or genderqueer words for sibling. Alphabetical order.

  • Emmer. Non-standard genderqueer term for sibling.
  • Sib. Short for sibling. Equivalent of bro or sis.
  • Sibling. Standard gender neutral term for sister or brother.
  • Sibster. "Queer, combination of sibling and sister."[3]
  • Sibter. "Queer, combination of sibling and brother."[3]

Partner[edit | edit source]

Gender-inclusive or genderqueer words for tentative romantic and sexual partners (as in girlfriend, boyfriend, or date) as well as permanent ones (as in wife, husband, or spouse).

Date[edit | edit source]

Gender-neutral and genderqueer words for a non-committed relationship, such as boyfriend, girlfriend, or date. Alphabetical order.

  • Birlfriend. "Queer, mix of boyfriend and girlfriend."[3] Birl is also a particular gender identity.
  • Boifriend. "Queer, boi is a particular gender identity."[3]
  • Boo. From "beau". Originated as African American slang, but now used more widely.
  • Bothfriend. "Queer, for bigender or androgynous people."[3]
  • Boygirlfriend. "Queer, for bigender or androgynous people."[3]
  • Cuddle Buddy. "Neutral, cheesy."[3]
  • Date. "Neutral, the person you are dating."[3]
  • Datefriend. "Neutral, the person you are dating, but fitting the boyfriend/girlfriend pattern."[3]
  • Datemate. "Neutral, a rhyming version of datefriend, the person you are dating."[3]
  • Enbyfriend. "Queer, based on boyfriend and girfriend. (note: enby comes from NB, non-binary)."[3]
  • Feyfriend. Queer, due to the implications of "fey."[3]
  • Genderfriend. "Queer, based on boyfriend and girlfriend."[3]
  • Girlboyfriend. "Queer, for bigender or androgynous people."[3]
  • Lover. "Neutral, often implies sexual relationship, but simply refers to someone you love/who loves you."[3]
  • [name]friend. "Queer, based on girlfriend and boyfriend."[3]
  • Paramour. "Neutral, someone you are having a sexual relationship with."[3]
  • Personfriend. "Neutral, leaning towards queer, based on boyfriend and girlfriend."[3]
  • Sweetie. "Neutral, slightly cheesy."[3]
  • Sweetheart. "Neutral, cheesy or old-fashioned."[3]
Significant other[edit | edit source]

Gender-neutral and genderqueer words for a girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner in a committed relationship. Alphabetical order.

  • Beloved. Neutral, one who one loves.
  • Birlfriend. "Queer, mix of boyfriend and girlfriend."[3] Birl is also a particular gender identity.
  • Boifriend. "Queer, boi is a particular gender identity."[3]
  • Bothfriend. "Queer, for bigender or androgynous people."[3]
  • Boygirlfriend. "Queer, for bigender or androgynous people."[3]
  • Companion. "Neutral, reference to Doctor Who’s companions, or Firefly’s Companions."[3]
  • Cuddle Buddy. "Neutral, cheesy."[3]
  • Enbyfriend. "Queer, based on boyfriend and girfriend. (note: enby comes from NB, non-binary)."[3]
  • Feyfriend. Queer, due to the implications of "fey."[3]
  • Genderfriend. "Queer, based on boyfriend and girlfriend."[3]
  • Girlboyfriend. "Queer, for bigender or androgynous people."[3]
  • Imzadi. "Neutral, from Star Trek, a Betazed word similar to beloved."[3]
  • Loveperson. "Neutral, a person that you love."[3]
  • [name]friend. "Queer, based on girlfriend and boyfriend."[3]
  • Other Half. "Neutral, informal, and implies monogamy."[3]
  • Paramour. "Neutral, someone you are having a sexual relationship with."[3]
  • Partner. Neutral, but often queer.
  • Personfriend. "Neutral, leaning towards queer, based on boyfriend and girlfriend."[3]
  • Significant Other (S.O.). "Neutral, quite formal."[3] Implies monogamy.
  • Soul Mate. "Neutral, slightly cheesy, implies belief in soul mates."[3] Implies monogamy.
  • Steady. "Neutral, as in 'going steady' or 'steady girlfriend/boyfriend'."[3] Implies monogamy.
  • Sweetie. "Neutral, slightly cheesy."[3]
  • Sweetheart. "Neutral, cheesy or old-fashioned."[3]
Fiancée/Fiancé[edit | edit source]

In addition to the above list of words for significant other.

  • Betrothed. "Neutral, formal."[3] Usually means an arranged marriage.
Spouse[edit | edit source]

In addition to the above list of words for significant other.

  • Spouse. "Standard, neutral, formal."[3]

Other family relationships[edit | edit source]

Gender-neutral and genderqueer words for other kinds of family relationships.

  • Godparent. Standard gender neutral term for godfather or godmother.
  • Grandchild. Standard gender neutral term for grandson or granddaughter.

Professions[edit | edit source]

  • Bar tender. Standard gender neutral term for barman or barmaid.
  • Business person. Standard gender neutral term for businessman or businesswoman.
  • Clergy member. Standard gender neutral term for clergyman, priest, priestess, and many religious titles.
  • Cowhand. Standard gender neutral term for cowboy or cowgirl.
  • Heroix. Proposed nonbinary equivalent to hero or heroine that specifies an individual doing heroic work is nonbinary.
  • Horse rider. Standard gender neutral term for horseman or horsewoman.
  • Minister. Standard gender neutral term for priest or priestess.
  • Monarch. Standard gender neutral term for a king or queen.
  • Monarch's heir. Gender neutral term for a prince or princess.
  • Prime. Derived from Latin. Gender Neutral term for a prince or princess.
  • Princette. Queer, based on the Prince/ess ending. Gender Neutral term for a prince or princess.
  • Princexx/Princex/Prinx Other gender neutral terms for Prince/Princess/Royalty incorporating the letter x; a common indicator of gender neutral language
  • Royalty. Standard. Usually refers to a family but can be used as a Gender Neutral term for a prince/princess or a king/queen.
  • Noble. A nobleman/noblewoman, lord/lady, prince/princess, duke/duchess, or many other noble ranks that lack specific gender neutral titles.
  • Pilot. Standard gender neutral term for aviator or aviatrix.
  • Police officer Standard gender neutral term for policeman or policewoman.
  • Server. Standard gender neutral term for a person who provides items to customers, such as a "waiter/waitress" or "steward/stewardess".

Descriptions[edit | edit source]

  • Attractive. Gender neutral term equally applicable to "handsome" or "beautiful" individuals. Implies the speaker experiences some form of attraction, so might not be suitable for people who are aromantic or asexual.
  • Gorgeous. Gender neutral alternative to "handsome" or "beautiful," but tends to be feminine.
  • Youthful. Gender neutral alternative to "boyish" or perhaps "girlish," but tends to be masculine.

Deity titles[edit | edit source]

  • Absolute Being. Standard term for a monotheistic deity, without implied gender.
  • Almighty. Standard term for a monotheistic deity, without implied gender.
  • Creator. Standard term for a deity who created the world and/or humankind.
  • Deity. Standard gender neutral term for a god or goddess.
  • Divine, the. Common gender neutral term for a deity or supernatural forces.
  • Divine being. Common gender neutral term for a deity or supernatural entity.
  • God. Standard gender neutral term for a god or goddess, but tends to be presumed male.
  • Goddex. "Queer, based on the God/dess ending."[3]
  • Goddette. "Queer, based on the God/ess ending."[3]
  • Goddeq. "Queer, based on the God/ess ending."[3]
  • Heavens, the. Common gender neutral term for a deity, deities, or supernatural forces.
  • Higher Power. Standard gender neutral term for a deity, deities, or supernatural forces.
  • Liege. Neutral equivalent of lord or lady.
  • Powers that be. Common gender neutral term for a god, goddess, or similar supernatural beings or forces.
  • Ruler. Neutral equivalent of lord or lady.
  • Sovereign. Neutral equivalent of lord or lady.
  • Wild Divine, the. New Age name for God, Goddess, or primal supernatural forces.

Other terms[edit | edit source]

  • Fanenby. Queer, using enby after fanboy or fangirl.[3]
  • Fankid. Neutral, after fanboy or fangirl.
  • Wedding usher. Neutral, alternative to bridesmaid or groomsman.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]