a combining form of man
: layman; postman.
The use of -man
as the last element in compounds referring to a person of either sex who performs some function (anchorman; chairman; spokesman
) has declined a great deal in recent years. Only if the reference is to a specific male person are such compounds still widely used: Roy Johnston, Channel 83 news anchorman.
Sometimes the sex-neutral -person
is substituted for -man
when the sex of the individual involved is unknown or irrelevant: anchorperson; chairperson; spokesperson. Often when a specific woman is involved, the suffix -woman is used: Doris Powell, Channel 83 news anchorwoman. And sometimes, when possible, a form with no suffix at all is used: Roy Johnston, Channel 83 news anchor.
All terms historically ending in -man that designate specific occupations (foreman; mailman; policeman; repairman; etc.) were dropped in favor of sex-neutral terms in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), published by the U.S. Dept. of Labor in 1977. DOT terms for the occupations listed above are supervisor, mail or letter carrier, police officer (or just officer), repairer (as in radio repairer). Many industries and business firms have adopted similar sex-neutral occupational titles.
One -man compound, freshman, is still the term generally used in high schools and colleges and in Congress, and it is applied to both sexes. As a modifier, the singular form freshman is used with both singular and plural nouns: a freshman athlete; freshman legislators. See also chairperson, man, -person, -woman.