Man as a reference to people in general

The word man has traditionally been used to refer not only to an adult male but also to the whole human race. It has also been used as a suffix and a prefix in a generic sense (e.g., foreman and manpower, respectively). Nevertheless, it is now accepted that this generic use is sexist, excludes women and non-binary people and reinforces gender stereotypes. For these reasons, substitute generic terms containing the word man with a gender-neutral alternative in the manner shown below.

Generic term using the word man
Gender-neutral alternative
man, mankind
people, humanity, humankind
man’s achievements
human achievements
the man in the street
the average person
the working man
the average worker
primitive man
primitive humans


Alternatives to words containing man as a prefix.

Terms using man as a prefix
Alternative term
manhole
maintenance hole
man hours
work hours
man-made
synthetic, manufactured
manpower
work force, human resources


Other man words do not need to be changed because they are not compounds incorporating the modern gender-specific word man but derivations of the Latin word manus (hand). For example, manage, manipulate, manual, manufacture and manuscript. Likewise, there is no need to find an alternative for the word human because it does not finish with the suffix -man but derives from the Latin word humanus.

Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics
Darrera actualització: 27-10-2023
Recommended citation:
«Man as a reference to people in general» [en línia]. A: Llibre d’estil de la Universitat de Barcelona. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics. <https://www.ub.edu/llibre-estil/criteri.php?id=2405> [consulta: 21 febrer 2024].