late O.E. wimman (pl. wimmen), lit. "woman-man," alteration of wifman (pl. wifmen), a compound of wif "woman" (see wife
) + man "human being" (in O.E. used in ref. to both sexes; see man
). Cf. Du. vrouwmens "wife," lit. "woman-man." The formation is
peculiar to Eng. and Du. Replaced older O.E. wif, quean as the word for "female human being." The pronunciation of the singular altered in M.E. by the rounding influence of -w-; the plural retains the original vowel. Meaning "wife," now largely restricted to U.S. dial. use, is attested from c.1450. Women's liberation is attested from 1966; women's rights is from 1840, with an isolated example in 1632. Verb womanize originally (1593) meant "to make effeminate;" sense of "to chase women, to go wenching" is attested from 1893.