Etymology
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woman (n.)
Origin and meaning of woman

"adult female human," late Old English wimman, wiman (plural wimmen), literally "woman-man," alteration of wifman (plural wifmen) "woman, female servant" (8c.), a compound of wif "woman" (see wife) + man "human being" (in Old English used in reference to both sexes; see man (n.)). Compare Dutch vrouwmens "wife," literally "woman-man."

It is notable that it was thought necessary to join wif, a neuter noun, representing a female person, to man, a masc. noun representing either a male or female person, to form a word denoting a female person exclusively. [Century Dictionary]

The formation is peculiar to English and Dutch. Replaced older Old English wif and quean as the word for "female human being," as in Jesus's answer to his mother, in Anglo-Saxon gospels la, wif, hwæt is me and þe? (John ii:4 "Woman, what have I to do with thee?").

The pronunciation of the singular altered in Middle English by the rounding influence of -w-; the plural retains the original vowel. Meaning "wife," now largely restricted to U.S. dialectal use, is attested from mid-15c.

In American English, lady is "In loose and especially polite usage, a woman" [Craigie, "Dictionary of American English"]. This peculiarity was much commented upon by English travelers; in the U.S. the custom was considered especially Southern, but the English didn't bother with nice distinctions and regarded it simply as American. "This noble word [woman], spirit-stirring as it passes over English ears, is in America banished, and 'ladies' and 'females' substituted; the one to English taste mawkish and vulgar; the other indistinctive and gross. The effect is odd." [Harriet Martineau, 1837]

Woman-hater "misogynist" is from c. 1600. Women's work, that considered appropriate to women, is from 1660s. Women's liberation is attested from 1966; women's rights is from 1840, with an isolated example in 1630s.

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chaser (n.)

c. 1300, "horse trained for chasing," agent noun from chase (v.), probably in some cases from Old French chaceor "huntsman, hunter." The meaning "water or mild beverage taken after a strong drink" is by 1894, U.S. colloquial. French had chasse (from chasser "to chase") "a drink of liquor taken (or said to be taken) to kill the aftertaste of coffee or tobacco," which was used in English from c. 1800.

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wonder woman (n.)

1912, "ideal woman, woman who seems wonderful or has wonderful qualities," from wonder (n.) + woman. The comic book superheroine debuted in DC Comics in 1941.

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chasse (n.)

French chassé "chase, chasing," past participle of chasser "to chase, hunt" (see chase (v.)), borrowed 19c. into English in a variety of senses and expressions, such as "chaser" (in the drinking sense), short for chasse-café, literally "coffee-chaser." Also as a dance step (1867).

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skirt (n.)

early 14c., "lower part of a woman's dress," from Old Norse skyrta "shirt, a kind of kirtle;" see shirt. Sense development from "shirt" to "skirt" is possibly related to the long shirts of peasant garb (compare Low German cognate Schört, in some dialects "woman's gown"). Sense of "border, edge" (in outskirts, etc.) first recorded late 15c. Metonymic use for "women collectively" is from 1550s; slang sense of "young woman" is from 1906; skirt-chaser first attested 1942.

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womanish (adj.)

late 14c., "womanly, feminine; resembling a woman;" of a man or men, "behaving in the manner of a woman, effeminate," from woman + -ish. Related: Womanishly; womanishness.

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chairwoman (n.)

"woman who leads a formal meeting," 1699, from chair (n.) + woman.

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womanhood (n.)

late 14c., "condition of being a woman," also "qualities or characteristics considered natural to a woman," from woman + -hood. Meaning "women collectively" is attested from 1520s.

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*gwen- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "woman."

It forms all or part of: androgynous; banshee; gynarchy; gyneco-; gynecology; gynecomastia; gyno-; misogyny; polygyny; quean; queen.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit janis "a woman," gná "wife of a god, a goddess;" Avestan jainish "wife;" Armenian kin "woman;" Greek gynē "a woman, a wife;" Old Church Slavonic zena, Old Prussian genna "woman;" Gaelic bean "woman;" Old English cwen "queen, female ruler of a state, woman, wife;" Gothic qino "a woman, wife, qéns "queen."

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womanly (adj.)

c. 1200, of a man, "wanton, lascivious;" late 14c. of a woman, "feminine," of qualities, "proper to a woman;" from woman + -ly (1). From c. 1400 of men with the sense "effeminate, weak." Related: Womanliness.

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