Printable Version
Pronunciation: mis-gen-dêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To refer to someone using words associated with a gender that the person does not identify with, especially transgender people, i.e. referring to a transgender biological female as "she" or "ma'am".

Notes: The recognition of the social problem of transgender by some if not a majority of people brings with it language problems, especially with forms of address. Today's word addresses this issue. This word is so young, it hasn't had time to propagate a lexical family, so we have to use the present participle, misgendering, as an adjective and noun. It is akin to cisgender "related to biological sex".

In Play: Misgendering mostly offends transgendered people: "Since Henrietta's transition, she has suffered much from intentional and unintentional misgendering." But we are beginning to learn how to fight misgendering: "At Ethical Society meetings our name tags identify the pronoun (he or she) we wish to be addressed as, so as to avoid misgendering."

Word History: Today's Good Word comprises the prefix mis- "wrong(ly)" + gender. It is a new word that first appeared in print in 1989 in the sense expressed above, so it probably arose in the 1980s. It is usually attached to verbs but, in this case, it attaches to a noun to make it a verb. English borrowed Old French gendre twice: once with the D, resulting in gender and later, in Middle French, without it, resulting in genre. The French word derived from Latin genus, generis "kind, species". Latin inherited its word from PIE genê-/gonê- "give birth to, beget", a word whose remnants we see in English kin and king. We find it without its vowel in Latin pregnan(t)s "pregnant (pre-birthing)" and with it in Greek genesis "birth, beginning". That is it in generation, too, borrowed from Latin.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!