1965, from sex (n.) on model of racist, coined by Pauline M. Leet, director of special programs at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S., in a speech which circulated in mimeograph among feminists. It was popularized by use in print in Caroline Bird's introduction to "Born Female" (1968), which also introduced sexism.
Entries linking to sexist
late 14c., "males or females considered collectively," from Latin sexus "a sex, state of being either male or female, gender," a word of uncertain origin. "Commonly taken with seco as division or 'half' of the race" [Tucker], which would connect it to secare "to divide or cut" (see section (n.)).
Secus seems the more original formation, but it is strange that the older texts only know sexus. The modern meaning of sectiō 'division' suggests that sec/xus might derive from secāre 'to sever', but the morphology remains unclear: does sexus go back to an s-present *sek-s- 'to cut up', or was it derived from a form *sek-s- of the putative s-stem underlying secus? [Michiel de Vaan, "Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages," Leiden, 2008]
The meaning "quality or character of being either male or female" with reference to animals is recorded by 1520s; by 19c. this meant especially "the anatomical distinction between male and female as evidenced by physical characteristics of their genital organs and the part taken by each in reproduction." Extended by 1560s to characteristics or structures in plants which correspond to sex in animals.
It is curious that the Anglo-Saxon language seems to have had no abstract term for sex, which was expressed only severally as manhood or womanhood. [Thomas Wright, note to "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," 1884]
Also especially the sex "the female sex, womankind" (1580s). The meaning "sexual intercourse" (have sex) is by 1906; the meaning "genitalia" is suggested by 1933 ("Fumes of Formation") and probably is older. Sex symbol by 1871 in anthropology; the first person to whom the term was applied seems to have been Marilyn Monroe (1959). Sex-kitten is attested by 1954 (Brigitte Bardot). Sex object is by 1901, originally in psychology; sex appeal is attested by 1904.
For the raw sex appeal of the burlesque "shows" there is no defense, either. These "shows" should be under official supervision, at the least, and boys beneath the age of eighteen forbidden, perhaps, to attend their performance, just as we forbid the sale of liquors to minors. [Walter Prichard Eaton, "At the New Theatre and Others: The American Stage, Its Problems and Performances," Boston, 1910]
Sex-life is attested by 1887. Sex-drive is by 1916 (sex-impulse by 1911). Sex-education is by 1894; sex therapist is by 1969, in early use often in reference to Masters and Johnson. Sex-crime is by 1907; sex-maniac by 1895; sex-fiend by 1931 (in a New York Daily News headline).
1932 (as an adjective from 1938), from race (n.2) + -ist. Racism (q.v.) is in use by 1928, originally in the context of fascist theories, and common from 1936. These words replaced earlier racialism (1882) and racialist (1910), both often used early 20c. in a British or South African context. There are isolated uses of racism from c. 1900.
Returning recently from a six months' visit to Europe, the Rev. John LaFarge, noted Catholic writer, warned at a dinner given in his honor that the destructive forces of "racism" are increasing in the United States, and that they could cause irreparable harm among the American people if immediate steps are not taken to combat them.
Father LaFarge said that American racism is directed principally against Negroes, Jews, and foreigners. He described it as "the pale but venomous cousin" of Nazi racism. Like its Nazi counterpart, he added, it has erected impassable barriers between extensive regions and large groups of people, has formed its own myths and moulded its own social institutions, and above all has come consistently into conflict with Christian teachings. [Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life, vol. XVII, No. 2, Feb. 1939]
Earlier, race hatred (1852 of the Balkans, 1858 of British India, 1861 of white and black in America), race prejudice (1867 of English in India, 1869 of white and black in America, 1870 of the English toward Irish) were used, and, especially in 19c. U.S. political contexts, negrophobia. Anglo-Saxonism as "belief in the superiority of the English race" had been used (disparagingly) from 1860. Anti-Negro (adj.) is attested in British and American English from 1819.
updated on July 08, 2022
Dictionary entries near sexist