man (n.)

"a featherless plantigrade biped mammal of the genus Homo" [Century Dictionary], Old English man, mann "human being, person (male or female); brave man, hero;" also "servant, vassal, adult male considered as under the control of another person," from Proto-Germanic *mann- (source also of Old Saxon, Swedish, Dutch, Old High German man, Old Frisian mon, German Mann, Old Norse maðr, Danish mand, Gothic manna "man"), from PIE root *man- (1) "man." For the plural, see men.

Sometimes connected to root *men- (1) "to think," which would make the ground sense of man "one who has intelligence," but not all linguists accept this. Liberman, for instance, writes, "Most probably man 'human being' is a secularized divine name" from Mannus [Tacitus, "Germania," chap. 2], "believed to be the progenitor of the human race."

Specific sense of "adult male of the human race" (distinguished from a woman or boy) is by late Old English (c. 1000); Old English used wer and wif to distinguish the sexes, but wer began to disappear late 13c. and was replaced by man. Universal sense of the word remains in mankind and manslaughter. Similarly, Latin had homo "human being" and vir "adult male human being," but they merged in Vulgar Latin, with homo extended to both senses. A like evolution took place in Slavic languages, and in some of them the word has narrowed to mean "husband." PIE had two other "man" roots: *uiHro "freeman" (source of Sanskrit vira-, Lithuanian vyras, Latin vir, Old Irish fer, Gothic wair; see *wi-ro-) and *hner "man," a title more of honor than *uiHro (source of Sanskrit nar-, Armenian ayr, Welsh ner, Greek anēr; see *ner- (2)).

Man also was in Old English as an indefinite pronoun, "one, people, they." It was used generically for "the human race, mankind" by c. 1200. As a word of familiar address, originally often implying impatience, c.1400; hence probably its use as an interjection of surprise or emphasis, since Middle English but especially popular from early 20c.

As "a woman's lover," by mid-14c. As "adult male possessing manly qualities in an eminent degree," from 14c. Man's man, one whose qualities are appreciated by other men, is by 1873. Colloquial use of the Man for "the boss" is by 1918. To be man or mouse "be brave or be timid" is from 1540s. Meaning "piece with which a game (especially chess) is played" is from c. 1400.

Man-about-town "man of the leisure class who frequents clubs, theaters, and other social resorts" is from 1734. Man of the world is from mid-14c. as "secular man, layman;" by early 15c. as "man experienced in the ways of the world, one able to take things in stride." To do something as one man "unanimously" is from late 14c.

So I am as he that seythe, 'Come hyddr John, my man.' [1473]

MANTRAP, a woman's commodity. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," London, 1785]

At the kinges court, my brother, Ech man for himself. [Chaucer, "Knight's Tale," c. 1386]

Origin and meaning of man

man (v.)

Middle English mannen, from Old English mannian "to furnish (a fort, ship, etc.) with a company of men," from man (n.). The meaning "take up a designated position on a ship" is attested by 1690s.

The sense of "behave like a man, brace up in a manful way, act with courage" is from c. 1400. To man (something) out "play a man's part, bear oneself stoutly and boldly" is from 1660s. To man up is by 1925 as "supply with a man or men;" by 2006 in the intransitive colloquial sense of "be manly." Related: Manned; manning.

Origin and meaning of man

updated on August 16, 2022

Definitions of man from WordNet
man (n.)
an adult person who is male (as opposed to a woman);
Synonyms: adult male
man (n.)
someone who serves in the armed forces; a member of a military force;
two men stood sentry duty
Synonyms: serviceman / military man / military personnel
man (n.)
the generic use of the word to refer to any human being;
it was every man for himself
man (n.)
any living or extinct member of the family Hominidae characterized by superior intelligence, articulate speech, and erect carriage;
Synonyms: homo / human being / human
man (n.)
a male subordinate;
the chief stationed two men outside the building
he awaited word from his man in Havana
man (n.)
an adult male person who has a manly character (virile and courageous competent);
the army will make a man of you
man (n.)
a manservant who acts as a personal attendant to his employer;
Jeeves was Bertie Wooster's man
Synonyms: valet / valet de chambre / gentleman / gentleman's gentleman
man (n.)
a male person who plays a significant role (husband or lover or boyfriend) in the life of a particular woman;
she takes good care of her man
man (n.)
game equipment consisting of an object used in playing certain board games;
he taught me to set up the men on the chess board
Synonyms: piece
man (n.)
all of the living human inhabitants of the earth;
Synonyms: world / human race / humanity / humankind / human beings / humans / mankind
man (v.)
take charge of a certain job; occupy a certain work place;
man (v.)
provide with workers;
We cannot man all the desks
Man (n.)
one of the British Isles in the Irish Sea;
Synonyms: Isle of Man
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.