Feminine compounds ending in -woman
are equivalent to the masculine compounds in -man.
When the person referred to is a woman, the feminine form is often, but not always, used: alderman, alderwoman; assemblyman, assemblywoman; chairman, chairwoman; congressman, congresswoman; spokesman, spokeswoman; businessman, businesswoman.
However, some forms ending in -man
are applied to women, and occasionally terms in -man
are specified by legal code: Alderman Dorothy Lavelle.
In general, the practice in current edited written English is to avoid the -man
form in reference to a woman or the plural -men
when members of both sexes are involved. Instead, a sex-neutral term is used: council members
rather than councilmen
and councilwomen; representative
rather than congressman
See also chairperson