English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I wonder what gentlebeing means and how it is used, especially when compared to similar phrases like Ladies and gentlemen!

I saw Gentlebeings! being used at the beginning of an email. Is it a formal or informal word, and does it have any sarcastic or humorous connotation to it?

share|improve this question
up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's not an accepted word (at least not yet), but an attempt (semi-humorous, at a guess), to find an appropriate salutation for a group of people, some of whom may object to "Ladies and Gentlemen". People have been attempting this for years, without noticeable success: "Gentlebeings", though harmless, has too much of a science-fiction flavour to catch on generally, I would say.

share|improve this answer
Thanks! Why would some object to "Ladies and Gentlemen"? – Tim Sep 18 '11 at 21:29
Some women object to being called "Ladies", perhaps because of the stereotype of "ladylike behaviour". Others object to unnecessary distinctions in language between men and women; for example it has become common to use "an actor" as a general term instead of calling about half of them "an actress". – Henry Sep 18 '11 at 23:23
Others object to the notion of a gender binary. – daxelrod Nov 6 '11 at 2:43
But this word is a step beyond mere gender. If we wanted a word that included males and females, it would be something like "gentlefolk". "Gentlebeings" is deliberately designed to include not only humans, but representatives of any and all non-human species who may be present. All human beings, and all alien beings: gentlebeings all. – Algernon_Asimov Feb 11 '14 at 12:46

"Gentlebeings" is an informal word which is widely used in science fiction works. It is deliberately designed to include not only humans (of both genders), but representatives of any and all non-human species who may be present. All human beings, and all alien beings: gentlebeings all.

share|improve this answer

SF flavour is right, it's been used by Anne McCaffrey (in one of the Brain Ships novels), Larry Niven (Fallen Angels), Alan Dean Foster (Flinx books), Gordon Dickson (Hokas Pokas), Keith Laumer (Odyssey), Doohan & Stirling (The Privateer), John Ringo (There Will be Dragons) and Poul Anderson (Flandry) to name but a few.

I imagine it's connected with Shakespeare's "Gentles" (Henry IV & V, A Midsummmer Night's Dream, Taming of the Shrew) which might be more acceptable to non-fen. ["Fen" is the plural of fan in the speech of SF aficionados.]

share|improve this answer
helpful information on the SF usage. But can you source the connection with Shakespeare or is that just your conjecture? – virmaior Feb 11 '14 at 16:23
Isn't 'fan/fen' also sexist then? What about 'wofan/wofen'? [pronounced wufan/wiffin] – chasly from UK Sep 13 '15 at 1:26

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.