In my native language, there are some interjections used only by women. For example Va (pronounced /vʌ/), is an exclamation used to express surprise only by women. If any man happens to use them, he will be either laughed at and humiliated, or will be considered a man with female characteristics.

Are there any similar things in English which should be avoided to be used by men (or women) and one should be aware of?

The example I used was an interjection, but your answer might be any word, phrase, idiom that could be thought of.

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    You probably should put a time frame on your question. In the recent past, there were many words that no self-respecting lady would have used. Today, the use of such terms by females is (in some circles) regarded as a mark of equality.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 12:43
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    @Fortiter; the point about such language was that it was not used either by a lady or a gentleman. Fishwives and longshoremen (for example) were under no such restrictions. [Nothing personal.] Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 13:51
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    This is, um, more complicated than it might appear. See here, here, here, here, and here — just for starters.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 19:06
  • I don't know about exclusive use, but there's just a huge set of culturally one-sided words that will separate the sexes in general (but those in the field won't care). 'What brand of jock strap do you use?' I think is pretty rarely used (or asked of) women. Like ceteris paribus 'panty-liner'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 20:12
  • @tchrist Your links to discussions of related subjects are really good and really fascinating, and worth reading. I might have missed something in all of that, but it still seems to me that they nevertheless don't present any word or phrase that fits what the OP is looking for. Although word frequency, intonations and inflections, partial forms of speech, etc., etc., might reflect different ways people have of speaking based on their gender, none of this seems to supply a specific word or phrase that satisfies the condition stated in the question. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 9:10

4 Answers 4


I accidentally came across this on Wikipedia. It is a page about the Geordie dialect in the north of the UK:

There is some differentiation in pronunciation in the Geordie dialect based upon the speaker's sex. For example, English sound /aʊ/, pronounced generically in Geordie as [əʊ], may also have other, more specific pronunciations depending upon whether one is male or female. Males alone often pronounce the sound /aʊ/ as [uː], for example, the word house (/haʊs/) pronounced as [huːs]. Females, on the other hand, will often pronounce this sound as [eʉ], thus: [heʉs].

Sorry I can't add more, I'm not that familiar with Geordie pronunciation.


There are no such words in English.

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    @Fortiter: how do you propose a negative should be proved? Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 12:51
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan We aren’t talking about grammatical gender here; we’re talking about the speaker’s actual sex. Therefore the comparative paucity of grammatical gender in English is completely immaterial. The question is whether there are any words that are exclusively used by only one sex but not the other.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 18:23
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan Stick to the question: The question is whether there are words, not gender specific, which are used by only one gender. It would be easy enough to say that a man would not say, "I have a uterus" (you can't get much more grammatically gender-specific than that), but this is absolutely irrelevant to the question. And the suggestion that a difference in inflection might suggest usage by only one gender is also not to the point. Nor do you provide any examples of such usage. Don't try to force the question to fit the answer. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 5:30
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    But, for fun and completeness, let me give the expanded version of my answer: "Having written hundreds of thousands of words (professionally), edited magazines, taught college writing courses, absorbed thousands of books, TV shows, and films, and spoken with literally hundreds of thousands of people, and having explored and pondered English for decades, I feel that, based on my experience and my understanding of the language, the likelihood that one will discover a word that entirely qualifies as gender-linked in the way you describe is exceptionally low." Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 5:52
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    @Fortiter And further, Tim Lymington's point about proving a negative is a simple, very well known point of logic. You CAN'T prove a negative. If I say there are no pink elephants, it may or may not be true, but there is no way to PROVE that it is true. Yet at any moment, if a pink elephant appears, the statement has been instantly DISproven. And I reiterate, I would be happy to be proven wrong in my assertion that there are no words such as that which the OP seeks; disproving my statement would take only one such word. But even now, I see none offered by anyone. I'm still waiting. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 21:28

"Let's go to the bathroom."

Girls go in clusters. Ask a guy to join you and he'll be more than a little weirded out.

There are a lot of off-color slang phrases. Guys typically can't get away with certain terms without it being significantly more offensive.

"Fabulous" is a term a straight guy will rarely use.

  • Oh no, not lavender linguistics!
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 18:59
  • I cannot believe someone took the time to write that all out, let alone study it. Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 19:08
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    "Let's go to the bathroom" is used here to stand in for any verbiage used to ask someone to accompany the speaker to the bathroom. It thus refers to a sociological tendency, not to an actual word or phrase which links to one gender; therefore it does not qualify. The "slang phrase" portion of the answer gives no specifics, and so can hardly be discussed. And "fabulous," well, it might be ever-so-slightly more common for gay men to say it, but I don't think it's a strong enough association to count as a good answer, especially in our modern, metrosexual world. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 5:20
  • On what basis do you state that "'Fabulous' is a term a straight guy will rarely use." and in what country / area / culture are you suggesting that that is the case?
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 15:49

Perhaps "I'm blonde" will qualify: in British English, the spelling would usually be blond for a male. The difference in spelling is obvious in writing; pronunciation is less clearly differentiated, in my experience. This is, to my knowledge, the one adjective in English where the inflection for gender from the language of origin is (at least to some extent) preserved ( http://grammarist.com/usage/blond-blonde/ ).

  • The old naïf/naïve distinction has run a bit thin, but you’ll hear women in America of Hispanic heritage refer to themselves as latinas not as latinos.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 13:50
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    This is an answer to a different question than was asked. The original poster asked for a word that was used only by one but and not the other, not for one used for one sex but not the other. Therefore, blonde/blond no more counts than hers/his might — or girl/boy.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 14:03
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    @tchrist, agreed - despite the subtlety of blond/blonde, this answer is really no different than "I'm a woman!" or "I'm female!", which doesn't get at what the question is looking for.
    – Luke
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 14:30
  • Despite the fact that Edwin's answer might be not quite what the OP was looking for, I would simply like to point out that the spelling of the word, at least in AmE, and at least in many print instances I've encountered, is dictated by the usage: "Blonde" is the noun meaning a person who has blond hair ("he/she is a blonde"), and "blond" is the adjective describing the color of the hair. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 5:07
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    @tchrist All your comments are great, but the one about latinas doesn't support your other points. Latina is just an example of Spanish language gender-designated usage, such as amiga meaning female friend, as opposed to amigo meaning male friend. It equates to "boy/girl." "I am a Latino," equates (for most current speakers) to saying "I am a male person of that ethnic descent," so a woman would not say it on a purely factual basis, not by gender preference. (Leaving aside sociological and medical issues such as transsexualism.) Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 6:01

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