A woman is an adult female human being, as contrasted to an adult male, which is a man. The term woman (irregular plural: women) is used to indicate biological sex distinctions, cultural gender role distinctions, or both.


In terms of sex, women have various sexual characteristics that differentiate them from men. In women, the sex organs are involved in the reproductive system, whereas the secondary sex characteristics are involved in attracting a mate or nurturing children.

Although fewer females than males are born (the ratio is around 1:1.05), women make up the majority of the adult population. This is because males of all ages have a slightly higher death rate (even in the womb) and women live, on average, five years longer than men. This is thought to be a result of a combination of factors: genetics (redundant and varied genes present on sex chromosomes in women); sociology (such as military service); health-impacting choices (such as use of cigarettes and alcohol); the presence of the female hormone estrogen, which has a cardioprotective effect in premenopausal women, and the effect of high levels of androgens in men.

After the onset of menarche, most women are able to become pregnant and bear children. (See also obstetrics.) The study of female reproduction and reproductive organss is called gynecology. Women generally reach menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, at which point they can no longer become pregnant.

In general, women suffer from the same illnesses as men; however there are some sex-related illnesses that are found more commonly or exclusively in women.

Gender roles

Main article: gender role

The general study of women at universities is pursued under the heading "women's studies". Almost since its inception, that study has been closely associated with feminism and has focused on the social and economic differences between the sexes. Current gender roles are criticised by both the feminism movement and the masculism movement.

Terms for women

While the usual definition of the word girl is 'female child', girl is also often used to refer to a young or unmarried woman. Since the early 1970s such usage has been questioned by feminists. Today, using the word in the workplace (as in "office girl") is typically considered inappropriate in the U.S., but remains commonplace in several other English-speaking countries. Outside the workplace, it is also standard practice in certain contexts (such as "girls night out"). In this sense, girl may be considered to be the analogue to guy or bloke for a man (the latter is seldom used in the U.S.).

See also