I commonly use the word 'guys' to refer to a group of males colloquially. It's colloquial but not rude, off putting, condescending, patronizing (though I wouldn't use it with a group of men at a board meeting (hypothetically of course), unless I knew them). So, some that I would not consider as replacements would be

  • buddies: too old-fashioned
  • dudes: too informal
  • boys: too patronizing
  • men, gentlemen: too formal or false respect

I realized that I had also been using it for any group of people, males and females, even just females. It worked for me and I didn't think of the gender implications, that women might not care for it. No one ever complained, directly or indirectly (rule of life: sometimes people don't complain about things they should).

But it occurred to me (maybe by reading something that sparked realization) that the intended hearers might not all care for it.

What might be a female gendered or non-gendered version of 'guys'?

Some that I've considered don't feel right about (though these may be reasonable answers) are:

  • dolls: too old-fashioned
  • babes: too informal
  • ladies: too formal or I've heard from women, too creepy
  • women: too factual
  • girls: too patronizing (as much as 'boys')
  • everyone, you all: too bland
  • y'all: perfectly non-sexist but too regional (might work, but not everywhere)

Hopefully I haven't eliminated all the possibilities -- any suggestions?

  • 5
    Was wondering about this too.
    – JFW
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 13:55
  • 61
    ...As a female, I don't have a problem with "guys." I use it myself in the same indiscriminate way. So do all my female friends. We would not say "gals" unless mocking something or other. that's my experience at least.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 18:15
  • 8
    From all the answers, it's clear that using a masculine term (eg "guys") is considered sexist (see Leopd's comment), and using a feminine term (eg "gals") is also considered sexist (see The Raven's answer). The only way to be safe, then, is to use a gender-neutral term, eg "people". Of course, if you use "guys" for males and "people" for females, you're just reintroducing a distinction: you should stick to "people" for everyone.
    – LaC
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 23:46
  • 20
    @LaC: That's certainly one way to do it. I think, however, it'd be preferable to just eliminate the masculine connotation of "guys." That seems, from where I stand, to be happening anyway. Why not encourage it? Besides, not to be cliche, but, you can't please everyone. I'm sure there are men and women who would be offended at the asker NOT distinguishing them from the opposite sex. Probably as many as would dislike being so distinguished. I think it's safe to say most people are going to be more concerned with what you have to say than your mode of address.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 1:30
  • 16
    @kitukwfyer: but then "guys" will go out of fashion, and there will be a new term to refer to males, and the cycle will start anew. We might as well get off the euphemism treadmill and admit that for a man to talk to women is inherently sexist.
    – LaC
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 9:55

21 Answers 21


“Guys” can be used in English as gender neutral to refer to a group of mixed gender.

You will even hear women refer to other women as “guys.”

The closest linguistic equivalent with a feminine tilt would be “gals.” “Guys and gals” is a rather informal variant of “ladies and gentlemen.” (Note the reverse order.)

Edit: As noted by @kitukwfyer in the question comments, it is possible for “gals” to be derogatory when used by itself so be careful. It’s not likely to be a problem used in the pairing above. Used carefully it’s probably safe, but used by itself it could be heard as mockery.

Saying the following is unlikely to offend anyone:

“The gals talked in the kitchen while the guys went out to see Fred’s new truck.”

But walking up to a couple women on a street corner and saying this might get a strange reaction:

“Excuse me gals, where is the grocery store?”

Saying this to a couple girls might make them doubt you:

“Hey gals come with me.”

But if you are explaining some game instructions and say the following it’s likely to be fine:

“Alright, guys on this side of the room, gals on the other.”

  • 12
    @Leopd The usage I hear on the street says this is going the opposite direction. I understand the now much more restricted use of "he" in neutral contexts in favor of "they" (even for singular) and the like, but usage among the fairer folkd of "guys" seems to be going the opposite way.
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 18:03
  • 42
    +1: I hear females call other females "guys" all the time. e.g. "Come on, guys - hurry up." (even if the group is 100% female) I've heard it used this way on television quite a bit too. (mostly by younger generations, though)
    – Adam
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 18:54
  • 6
    @Leopd is it really sexist? Does that mean languages like Finnish are sexist, because they have only one non-gendered pronoun?
    – user6828
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 19:32
  • 11
    @Mitch It's only "discriminatory" if you attach masculinity to the word "guys". I do not. (Discrimination also implies intent, so I think you've crossed the line there.) My choice of "he" to refer to everyone is arbitrary, therefore, I do not discriminate.
    – user6828
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 0:02
  • 8
    @Noah: Fair enough. @intuited: A lot more than 3/4; right now 485 out of 500 are men. But there's no "only" about it - because that's still more women than men under 5'6". In one of the most notoriously glass-ceiling, male-dominated areas in business, being a short man is even worse for your chances than being a tall woman. (Of course, women average shorter, so gender-bias is related. Would you like to guess how many below-average-height women are in that list? If you're one of the 25% of humans who're female and below average height - here's a job you're not allowed to have.)
    – Tynam
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 11:40

I often use folks when addressing a group, both in public speaking and in email. Admittedly, it is a bit, er, folksy for business email, but it saves me time in thinking about the issue.

Edit: another informal term is gang. For email, I would only use this for colleagues within my department or team, and not to those outside of the team. e.g. "Hey gang, remember that the server is being rebooted tonight."

  • 3
    I agree with this assessment. It works, but with a ...folksy connotation.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 15:53
  • 9
    Folks is good, it doesn't come of as derogatory like gals does. Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 19:24
  • 4
    +1 for 'gang' too (if I could)
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 20:06
  • 7
    I'm not a huge fan of folks, though I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it sounds a bit rural? Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 3:52
  • 3
    Despite the popularity of 'guys' as a gender neutral term for 'guys', I'm going to accept this one as 'the answer'. 'gals' and 'ladies' don't sound right. And most likely, in actual practice, I will probably go with "hey y'all" (natural in my idiolect) or the boring "hey, everybody". To really decide on "guys"'s (or any word for that matter) acceptability, we'd have to do a real trial, account for gender of the hearer and speaker, etc, etc.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:30

Especially in these rapidly changing times, we must be careful not to make false assumptions about our addressees.

For this reason, it’s important to use broad, inclusive appellations like sentient life forms and beings.

If there is a chance that one or more of the group members may have ceased to be by the time your utterance has been processed, you should use the term entities or conceptual units. If all bets are off, you can’t fail to address the addressees appropriately and correctly with the term addressees.

Canadians is also universally acceptable.

  • 6
    I'll admit, that last one made me smile...:)
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 18:16
  • 13
    OK, this one's hilarious.
    – Tynam
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 8:13
  • 6
    Well, addressees is better than To Whom It May Concern . I don't know what other Beings think, though.
    – jbelacqua
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 2:39
  • 7
    Cripes, where's the like button?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 19:18
  • 26
    Nice, though sentient life forms makes some assumptions about the audience that I cannot always in good faith make. Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 5:29

Gals comes to mind, as in the commonly used expression guys and gals.

  • 8
    As much as this seems to be a parallel ('guys and gals' is a phrase) using 'gals' feels too dated to me.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 15:51
  • 5
    @mitch: Not in south-eastern USA. I hear it very often.
    – Adam
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 18:55
  • 3
    In southern UK 'guys and gals' is pretty dated too, but it's still quite common among middle-aged speakers (often with self-mocking overtones).Younger people on average seem to avoid acknowledging in their standard chit-chat that these gender differences even exist. Much as most of us don't feel the need to keep distinguishing the blacks folks from the white folks, in ordinary conversation in multiracial company. Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 22:36
  • @FumbleFingers: Sadly, I've found that we in the UK are ahead of the international curve on that one. Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 9:28
  • It should be ladies and gentlemen or people, if you talk about different genders, and guys to me sounds like guys only which are men only. Women and Men are different so it does matter that you point out which gender they are, it's the same with Black, Yellow and White people, they look different and have different cultures, so it does matter. Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 5:16

You can also use guys to address a group of women. See my response to the question "What is the possessive of 'you guys'?"

  • 1
    One -can- , and I have, but I'm finding that women may not care for it, the internal, mental response being 'What? I'm not a guy." (I surmise without being telepathic).
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 16:00
  • 11
    @Mitch: Women use it themselves to each other all the time.
    – Robusto
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 16:04
  • 3
    Hm...yes..I'll accept that but it still may be unwelcome for men to use it for women.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 16:17
  • 6
    @Mitch: Perfectly fine with girls, as far as I know. Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 16:35

"Gals" is, while traditional, also diminutive, patronizing, and potentially chauvinistic. It is possible to use "gals" in certain contexts, but these are carefully circumscribed.

As others note above, women are commonly seen to use "guys" among themselves and that's a safe default when in doubt.

  • 2
    Agree about 'gals', but I'm finding that 'guys' just doesn't sound right to women...coming from a guy.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 20:12
  • @Mitch Agreed.... I don't know of a good substitute. I tend to use an opening phrase like, 'Could you all....'
    – jbelacqua
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 20:27
  • 1
    I have found the acceptance of 'gals' to be largely geographic also.
    – Sam
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 1:43

As many people have noted, it's perfectly appropriate to call a group of girls "guys."

If it's really making you uncomfortable, you can also just say "people." Among my circle of friends we say "peoples," but obviously that's informal. Girls also use "ladies" among themselves pretty informally, although I have to agree, coming from a male it would seem...stilted in most contexts, and perhaps a little odd.

Theoretically, you could just dispense with it entirely. Just say "Hey...!" Or wave your arms around a bit. That'll get attention, and, in a colloquial setting, it probably won't be the bad kind. Still, definitely trust your own judgement when it comes to arm-waving.

If you really need help, why not ask the women in your family or close friends what they like to be called? Odds are they'll have the best answer for wherever you actually are.

  • Ladies - stilted. exactly.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 20:08
  • 1
    Ladies is generally so used ironically, exactly because it is stilted in informal settings. Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 3:47

Like Guffa, I'd go with gals, which is the most “symmetric” term to guys.

Apart from that, you have lasses (mostly Scottish, though), chicks (a tad derogatory), maiden (dated), damsels (literary), wenches (archaic and derogatory).


Apart from guys, which is fine and the most obvious choice, as others have mentioned, you could use ladies, which has a tinge of both irony and flattery. Most women appreciate this. Ladies is best accompanied by slightly exaggerated punctilio if the speaker is a man.

  • 'Ladies' has too much connection with its parallel 'gentlemen'. What is 'punctilio'?
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 16:44
  • According to Merriam-Webster: 1: a minute detail of conduct in a ceremony or in observance of a code 2: careful observance of forms (as in social conduct)
    – PSU
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 18:47
  • 2
    Wow, I thought I knew what punctilio meant before I read the definition. Now I have no idea.
    – intuited
    Commented Sep 3, 2012 at 13:21

It's lose-lose. There's always someone you'll upset or offend no matter which word you use. So instead what you do is figure out what person considers which term to be derogatory and which term to be complimentary, and figure out which type of person you'd actually rather be friends with. Pick that word, and use it. If you offend someone, they're not the type of person you want to associate with anyway.

For this reason I usually stick with 'girls' - I've never met anyone I liked who took offense to it. I've never had to deal with teenagers, who are the only girls I would say might have a legitimate claim to it being patronising, so I might go with 'ladies' but not 'young ladies' in that case.

  • 4
    Hmm, perhaps you and I like different types of friends, but unless you're around the same age, or if you're flattering older females, I've found that adult females tend to view being referred to as 'girls' (legitimately, IMHO), condescending or patronizing, particularly for short or petite females. OTOH, referring to teenagers (esp. younger ones) as 'girls' or 'young ladies' seems appropriate, being careful to not use those words in a derogatory way. As you say, some will take offence at anything, but they are, in fact, what those words describe. whereas calling them 'ladies' seems obsequious. Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 23:40

For a non-gendered rather than feminine option, you might consider:

Peeps (informal)

People (often used to refer to a person’s friends or associates)


thanks for the feedback, peeps!


  • 1
    Nice! A bit informal, but works in its context.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 15:00
  • I upvoted this because it is used, but I personally find it too informal.
    – ahorn
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 21:18
  • 1
    As a variation to this answer, I've also heard "Peoples" used as in "Hey peoples, how's it going?"
    – Tot Zam
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 1:34

Well this one may be beaten to death, let me add one note that seems to have been glossed over: In practice, terms for men and women are not necessarily symmetrical.

For example, by the dictionary definition, ladies and gentlemen are parallel terms. But in practice, ladies is often used as a generic term for a group of women where we would be very unlikely to say "gentlemen" if they were men. Likewise, it is common for people to say, "The ladies in our club ..." But they would rarely say, "The gentlemen in our club ..." -- not unless they were trying to make some sort of point about the membership. They would almost certainly say, "The men in our club ..." A bathroom for males is routinely called "the men's room" while the equivalent for women is usually called "the ladies' room", not "the women's room".

If you call a 40-year-old man a "boy", he is likely to take that as a put-down. But it is common to refer to women of any age as "girls". Some women find the term demeaning, but most do not. It depends on context, of course. (Personally, I suspect the difference here is that women generally like people to under-guess their age, while men prefer to be thought of as "mature". I think an amusing research project would be to ask people what age they would most like people to think they are, or what age they think is "ideal". I suspect women would average at something in the early 20's, while men would average around 40. Just speculating wildly.)

If a man refers to another man as his "boyfriend", everyone would assume this means that they are homosexual lovers. But women frequently refer to other women as their "girlfriends" with no such connotation.

You also sometimes get very specific connotations. Like, a "ladies' club" is normally understood to mean an informal, non-commercial social group for women, like a book club or a charitable organization. But a "gentlemen's club" is understood to be a business that features alcohol and strippers.


Dolls. the analogous term for females is Dolls, hence Guys and Dolls

  • 7
    Where I grew up, "doll" would be considered on the level of "darling" or "sweetie," which is to say I wouldn't advise using it unless you want to seem overbearing and quite possibly a creeper, unless you're family, in which case I'd think it was mockery. Note: I grew up in Virginia.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 1:36
  • its a play, i was screwin around Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 3:47
  • 1
    Facetious but funny. I was going to raise this for discussion anyway, as the musical in particular is evidence that "guys" is still partly a gendered term.
    – Tynam
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 12:34
  • @Tynam, I'm not sure a play from the 1950s can be considered modern, especially given the massive spike in popularity of the term "guys" that occurred in the mid-60s
    – Adam Katz
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 3:08
  • @AdamKatz: That is a good point, but I would assert that the large increase in the use of "guys" in the 60s-70s is still using it in the same, gendered, way. I can't recall a source for the mixed-gender usage before the late 70s / 80s. (The rise since then clearly includes the modern, mixed-group usage.)
    – Tynam
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 9:00

I actually rather agree that gals is the closest, at least in more civil conversations. Not to be crude but I've got to say: 'bitches' comes pretty close in many circles these days to being a similar level of gender neutrality and similar usage while technically maintaining gender-bias. :)

Common when referring to mixed-gender groups:

How's it going guys?


What's up bitches?

Of course when it comes to being polite and avoiding offense, this isn't very useful! If in doubt and somehow in a critical situation, keep it ultra neutral: Hello everyone; hi people.

Usually, while I find gals closer, guys and ladies seem to match up more kindly. They don't flow very well in the same sentence however.

  • 8
    No, bitches is the feminine version of niggaz.
    – intuited
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 9:11
  • 1
    I see lol, missed that when u posted it first. The differences in urban dialects has always fascinated me ;D Commented May 6, 2011 at 5:29
  • 1
    Thank you, this comparison made me crack up. (That said, I only refer to all male parties as "guys" and never refer to "bitches" or "dolls" except in jest. "Hey you guys" and similar phrases are not really in my vernacular due to this.)
    – Adam Katz
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 3:11

In this context it often means "people" as much as or more than "males".

  • 1
    Exactly. Just like 'dude' can refer to a male OR female.
    – Nobody
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 14:29

I disagree with using the word "guys" when addressing a group of women. You would not address one of them individually as a guy obviously. You could say, as I often do, "She's a nice gal;" however, you would never say, "She's a nice guy."

Nonetheless, I think we use far too many colloquial words and expressions these days, and could stand to formalize our speech a little. "Ladies," to me, is the best way to address a group of women.

  • I heartily agree that most social and business situations would benefit from a bit more formality. I find "guys" offensive when applied to women, and equally when applied to men in a formal setting. "Guys" is pseudo-friendly.
    – Theresa
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 22:19
  • So what about the custom of singing "For she's a jolly good fellow"? I always thought that was odd (and singing it is probably much less common than it used to be, in general), but that's somewhat analogous. Although, I believe saying "She's a nice guy" about a woman might be slightly better accepted than if you said about a man, "He's a nice gal." ;) Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 22:49
  • Lots of people use "nice guy" to refer to women. And plenty of women say, "No more Mr. Nice Guy" when they're at the end of their rope. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 5:01

Posting an answer in 2020 since the question — and accepted answer — date back to 2011 and I believe some things might have changed between now and then.

While “gals” is technically be the feminine version of “guys”, I would recommend avoiding it if at all possible.

This is especially true in business and professional settings where people are not necessarily there to be “friends” but you aren’t enemies and you ultimately have to work together in some functional way.

While Caleb’s answer — the currently accepted answer — is well thought out and provides some decent rationale, I find it a bit problematic. At its core, the word “guy” is clearly defined as “A man.” in the Oxford English Dictionary and “Man, Fellow” the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the Merriam-Webster definition also accounts for a plural “guys” by stating the following:

“Used in plural to refer to the members of a group regardless of sex.”

The fact that the singular is gendered and the plural is neutral might not seem like a big deal, but in many ways it makes no sense as a general rule and — honestly — seems confusing.

So I did some research and found some pertinent online posts, articles and resources that discuss the issue. My personal big takeaway from this stuff is that in casual use, “guys” is an acceptable gender neutral plural. But in more formal business and professional settings but should be avoided.

For example, this Vox piece from June 2015 quotes Jeane Anastas, a professor of social work at the NYU Silver School of Social Work who states:

“Whatever Webster’s dictionary says about the plural ‘guys’ and despite the fact that I sometimes catch myself saying ‘you guys’ to people of all genders, ‘guy’ is a gendered word.”

And this August 2018 article in The Atlantic refers to this 2002 essay by Sherryl Kleinman, a former professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, titled “Why Sexist Language Matters (PDF)” which states in simplest of terms:

“That women primarily exist in language as ‘girls’ (children), ‘sluts’ (sex objects) and ‘guys’ (a subset of men) makes it less of a surprise that we still have a long list of gendered inequalities to fix.”

This piece in ABC Life from August 2019 focuses on the business and professional side of things with this quote from Lisa Annese from the Diversity Council Australia:

“In the workplace, you cannot reasonably predict the impact that your words have on other people. If you’re a leader and you’re addressing a whole group of people, isn’t it better to use a more accurate term?”

And this April 2019 post from HotJar’s blog echoes the sentiments of how even if the intentions were good; the effect can still be negative to those who don’t identify as “guys”:

“Even though most people who use the term don’t do so with the intent of it being sexist or exclusive of women, it can and often does cause women to feel left out of the conversation.”

The overall point being that while “guys” is currently considered gender neutral to some, the fact that it’s singular is clearly gendered makes the word truly problematic in the literal sense.

So my advice is to just use gender neutral — yet welcoming and friendly — phrases like these when dealing with business and professional situations:

  • “Hey everybody!”
  • “Hey people!”
  • “Hey all!”
  • “Hey y’all!”
  • “Howdy folks!”
  • “Welcome team!”
  • “Ladies and gentlemen!”

And in casual situations? That is your judgement of course. Heck, you can say something like, this in in casual situations:

  • “Hey jerks!”
  • “Deadbeats! How are you doing?”
  • “How do you do, fellow kids!”

Because at the end of the day, being a jerk, deadbeat or an old creep pretending to be a kid is a genderless role.



Although lady-boys seems to have a slightly different meaning.

  • 2
    ...To most women, there's nothing "slight" about it! o.O
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 19:59
  • 2
    @kitukwfyer - and, I suspect, to most men !
    – mgb
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 20:28

I use "guys" or "folks" for both genders if the group is mixed, "ladies" if the group is distaff. I used to begin business correspondence with "gentlemen" but have been slapped down about it to the point where I substitute "gentlebeings", "gentles" or some other coinage unless I'm sure I'm addressing a sexually homogeneous audience (which gets "gentlemen" or "ladies" as appropriate). God only knows what I'll do with all the varieties in between...maybe just revert to "hey" and be done with it.


Surprisingly, it appears that nobody has mentioned the very simple term: "women". Quite often, I've heard men refer to other members of a group as "men" (usually followed by an imperative of some sort):

Men, let's get down to business...

But I do admit that it generally tends to be used in a humorous sense more often than not. And it's probably true that its female counterpart "women" is very rarely used when addressing a group. Still, I thought it was worth mentioning.

(By the way, in Ireland, groups of rural women in particular often refer to each other as "lads".)

  • 2
    'women' was mentioned in the OP as too factual.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 21:52
  • Oops! And so it was. My goldfish brain had forgotten that fact by the time I had read all the other responses! :-)
    – TrojanName
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 21:59

Less is more. In face-to-face meetings you can probably drop the term "guys" completely.

If you think about it, the main purpose of these locutions is to get attention and unite the speaker with the listener at the beginning of a speech, as in Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, etc.

The difficulty of finding a good substitute for "guys" suggests that the usage itself may be obsolete.

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