Cambridge Dictionary has come under heavy criticism after it updated its definition of female and male.
The dictionary updated its definition of ‘woman’ to include anyone who ‘identifies as a woman’, Daily Mail reports.
A supplementary definition in the online dictionary now states that the word can mean “an adult who lives and identifies as a female, even though said to have a different sex at birth.”
Usage examples include “Mary is a female assigned male at birth” and “she was the first trans woman elected to national office.”
The entry for ‘male’ has also been updated to include people who had a ‘different sex at birth’, according to the report.
‘Male’ is defined as ‘an adult human being’ and ‘the human race’, while the new supplemental definition adds that it can also mean ‘an adult who lives and identifies as a man, even though said to be of a different sex’ at birth’.
Users are given the examples ‘Mark is a trans man (=a man who was said to be a woman when he was born)’ and ‘their doctor encouraged them to live as men for a while before undergoing surgical transition’.
Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster included a new supplemental definition of ‘female’ that read ‘having a gender identity opposite to that of the male’.
Reacting to the new development, Free Speech Union founder Toby Young said that dictionary compilers had fallen on a ‘slippery slope’.
“It’s disappointing to see identity politics creep into the way a dictionary defines words,” he said.
“The claim that these complementary definitions of “female” and “male” are based on “carefully studied usage patterns” does not seem plausible. Who, apart from a few awakened activists, defines “woman” and “man” in this way?
“I suspect that this new definition was introduced as a result of lobbying by political activists, a slippery slope that no dictionary should descend.”
Chris McGovern of the Campaign for Real Education said the ‘female’ designation should have come with a caveat as the definition is disputed.
“Since it is a contested definition, the dictionary should indicate that it is a contested definition.
“The danger is that it will give the green light to what is happening in elementary schools, where parents are already concerned that children will be confused from an early age.
“This will fuel the debate and cause more unhappiness among children who will question their own identities.” The update would give the new description legitimacy, as dictionary definitions are considered ‘holy scripture,’ she added.
But Dr. Jane Hamlin, president of the transgender and nonbinary support group The Beaumont Society, described the addition as “good news.”
She said: ‘A lot of misinformation and rubbish has been written lately about the definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’, but these definitions are clear, concise and correct. Congratulations to the Cambridge Dictionary team.’ The main dictionary entry for women is still ‘adult female human being’.