From Susan's Place Transgender Resources
Jump to: navigation, search

A man is a male human adult, in contrast to an adult female, which is a woman. The term man (irregular plural: men) is a term used to indicate either a person generally, or a male person specifically.


The term "man" (from Proto-Germanic mannaz "man, person") and words derived from it can designate any or even all of the human race regardless of their gender or age. This is indeed the oldest usage of "man". The word developed into Old English man, mann "human being, person," (cf. also German Mann, Old Norse maðr, Gothic manna "man").

It is derived from a Proto-Indo-European root *man- (cf. Sanskrit/Avestan manu-, Russian муж (muzh) "man, male"). Sometimes, the word is connected with the root *men- "to think" (cognate to mind). Restricted use in the sense "adult male" only began to occur in late Old English, around 1000 AD, and the word formerly expressing male sex, wer had died out by 1300 (but survives in e.g. werewolf were-wolf and Weregild were-gild). The original sense of the word is preserved in mankind, from Old English mancynn.

In Old English the words wer and wīf (also wǣpmann and wīfmann) were used to refer to "a man" and "a woman" respectively, while mann was gender neutral. In Middle English man displaced wer as term for "male human," whilst wyfman (which eventually evolved into woman) was retained for "female human". Man does continue to carry its original sense of "human" however, resulting in an asymmetry sometimes criticized as sexist. [1]

In the 20th century, the generic meaning of man declined still further (but survives in compounds mankind, everyman, no-man's land, etc), and it is probable that future generations will see it as totally archaic, and use it solely to mean "adult male". Interestingly, exactly the same thing has happened to the Latin word homo: in the Romance languages, homme, uomo, hombre, homem etc. have all come to refer mainly to males, with residual generic meaning.

Biology and sex

In terms of sex, men have various sexual characteristics that differentiate them from women. Just as in women, the sex organs of a man are part of the reproductive system, consisting of the penis, testicles, vas deferens and other sperm cords, and the prostate gland. The male reproductive system is oriented around producing and ejaculating semen which carries sperm and thus genetic information. Since sperm that enters a woman's uterus and then fallopian tubes goes on to fertilize an egg which develops into a fetus or child, the male reproductive system plays no necessary role during the gestation. The concept of fatherhood and family exists in every human society.

The secondary sex characteristics, such as body hair and muscle growth, are involved in attracting a mate or in defeating rivals. But these secondary traits are also often related to reproduction in some manner. In contrast to women, men have sex organs that are mostly considered to be external, although many parts of the male reproductive system are internal as well (such as the prostate). The study of male reproduction and associated organs is called andrology. Most, but not all, men have the karyotype 46/XY.

In general, men suffer from many of the same illnesses as women. However, there are some sex-related illnesses that occur only, or more frequently, in men. For example, autism and color blindness are more common in men than women. As well, some age-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease appear to be more common among men, though whether this is due to a genuinely higher incidence or because men have lower life expectancies than women is uncertain.

Additionally, 20% of males, particularly in the U.S., the Philippines, and South Korea, as well as Jews and Muslims from all countries, have experienced circumcision, a process of altering the penis from its natural state by removing the foreskin.

Gender roles

Enormous debate in Western societies has focused on perceived social, intellectual, or emotional differences between men and women. These differences are very difficult to quantify for both scientific and political reasons. Below are a few stereotypical claims sometimes made about men in relation to women:

  • More aggressive than women. However, in interpersonal relationships, most research has found that men and women are equally aggressive. Men do tend to be more aggressive outside of the home.
  • More courageous and adventuresome than women.
  • More competitive but also more stubborn than women.
  • More self-confident (even proud) and exhibit better leadership skills than women.
  • More self-controlled and less emotional.
  • More technically and organizationally skilled than women.
  • More prone to abstract thinking than women.
  • Less tidy (dirtier) than women. [2]

Some of these differences have been supported by scientific research; others have not. All should be taken with a grain of salt, given the enormous variations among actual men and women.

A number of the above stereotypes were not perceived in the same way as today (i.e., their applications to particular aspects and spheres of life, such as work vs. home) until the 19th century, beginning with industrialization.

In terms of outward appearance, few men in Western cultures wear cosmetics or clothing generally associated with female gender roles. (Doing so is known as cross-dressing, and is generally stigmatized.)


*Some information provided in whole or in part by