a combining form of person
, replacing in existing compound words such paired, sex-specific forms as -man,
and -ess:, chairperson; salesperson; waitperson.
compounds are increasingly used, especially in the press, on radio and television, and in government and corporate communications, with the object of avoiding sex discrimination in language. Earlier practice was to use -man
as the final element in such compounds regardless of the sex of the person referred to (anchorman; businessman
) or to use -woman
when referring to a woman (anchorwoman; businesswoman
). Some object to these new -person
compounds on the grounds that they are awkward or unnecessary, insisting that the equivalent and long-used compounds in -man
are generic, not sex-marked. Others reject the -man compounds as discriminatory when applied to women or to persons whose sex is unknown or irrelevant. See also chairperson, -ess, lady, -man, -woman.