Can we use freshwoman to refer to a girl in her first year in college, or is freshman acceptable?

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    It may be in the dictionary, and there may be a slow but substantial trend brewing, but some women might still consider this a bit of an overcorrection. I don't believe any of my daughters would prefer freshwoman over the more traditional alternative.
    – J.R.
    Feb 20, 2014 at 13:29
  • Whatever the alternatives might be for 'freshman', the term 'freshwoman' is just not used (at least in AmE).
    – Mitch
    Feb 20, 2014 at 13:44
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    I'd avoid referring to a female frosh as "girl." This is a lingering bit of sexism. While high school kids are 'girls' and 'boys', college males have been 'men' for ages, so college females should be 'women.' Then again, take a look at the FB list of gender options! Feb 20, 2014 at 13:45
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    Remember that man is perfectly suitable for any member of Homo sapiens — as opposed to say Vulpes vulpes or Bos taurus — and you will see that freshman is the correct term for the year prior to one’s sophomore year. Don’t let useless political correctness and hypercorrection destroy the language.
    – tchrist
    Apr 24, 2014 at 20:32
  • @tchrist: the language started being "destroyed" some time before the word "man" was an allowable substitute for "werman". Those trying to uniformise usage are trying to fix language, not break it. Nov 19, 2014 at 5:58

2 Answers 2


There is a slow but substantial trend of avoiding gender-specific nouns when either gender could qualify. "Chair" in place of "chairman/woman/person" is one example. If you wish to refer to women using terms usually reserved for men, then it's perhaps a good hint that you should start using a different term, which would include both the men and the women.

There are some explicitly gender-neutral terms for these, which for the moment are appropriate for informal speech:

In formal speech, I would tend to prefer constructions such as "first year Bachelor's student" — or just "first year" if it's clear from context.

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    Note that the plural of frosh is often frosh. Feb 20, 2014 at 13:42

We were called "freshies"--it's gender neutral.


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