Is the word "dude" becoming gender neutral? I don't think so, however, has modern usage changed? Are there some recent examples of "dude" being used to refer to a woman or group of women?

  • 4
    As far as I know, dude still refers to a male only.
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 4:37
  • 11
    There is only one Dude.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 10:29
  • 5
    I've heard it casually used to address women or groups of mixed gender, the way "man" can occasionally be used to address a woman, or "guys" a mixed group. That's some kind of a shift towards less-gendered-ness. But I've never heard it used descriptively, in third person ("she's a cool dude") in a way that could be described as gender-neutral.
    – hemflit
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 14:57
  • 9
    @Moriarty Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
    – user53089
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 21:51
  • 4
    I call my mother "dude". She does not like it.
    – Emma Dash
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 18:51

10 Answers 10


It is common in my experience (woman in US, 26, liberal hippie type) for groups of women to be called "dudes" or "guys" by both men and other women, but not for individual women to be called a "dude" or a "guy." One exception seems to be in greetings using "dude," as in, "Hey dude!"

  • 10
    I want to add that other expressions containing "dude" do not sound strange either when addressed to women (e. g. "Dude!" as an exclamation). My impression is that "dude" is not gender neutral, but it might be moving in that direction because of these exceptions. "She's a great dude" will already raise fewer eyebrows than "She's a great guy".
    – FvD
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 9:39
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    This answer seems about right for my experience too (Man, 25, UK, not so liberal hippie type). Dudes would generally be used for groups of men or mixed groups (as would "guys"), and more rarely for groups of women. It would very rarely be used for a singular woman, although it could be, and would tend to be where used in a "hey dude" context rather than a "that dude over there". The latter would almost always be a male. Generally, though, it would be used by people already familiar with each other, not with strangers.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 14:30
  • 2
    This usage seems to be common at least for those of us under 30 in the Southeastern U.S., as well.
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 14:57
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    Purely anecdotal, but I've noticed that it's more commonly being used to address individual women in certain subcultures in America. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it's very often the type of people that visit sites/blogs like tumblr, don't use capital letters, write in run-on sentences (stream of consciousness), and casually/frivolously note how much their life is in disarray. I guess you could pretty accurately describe it as millennial internet culture.
    – Mdev
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 21:12
  • 1
    Side note: I would only call a woman "dude" if she is securely in friend territory and not a potential romantic interest. It's similar to being called "buddy" by a lady in that respect.
    – Preston
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 7:59


I've been calling female friends in the UK "dude" for years and nobody's yet found it to be unusual.


Personally I would feel quite creeped out if a male individual would address me with dude and I have not seen the word dude used as a gender neutral term. If a female individual would address me with dude I think she could get away with it, but it's not something I have actually seen.

A (female) friend of mine does use the terms dudette

dudette ‎(plural dudettes)

  1. (slang, often humorous) Term of address for a woman.
  2. (slang, often humorous) A cool woman, especially a surfer or skater.


Source: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dudette

and dudess

dudess ‎(plural dudesses)

  1. A female dude, i.e. a cool female.

Source: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dudess

although as stated this usage is often a bit joking and humours rather than serious.

For that matter, it can also be pointed out that dude is still only defined as a male term in the dictionary I checked.


I have noticed "dude" being used as a gender neutral pronoun by people in their 20's. I am in my 40's. It sounds odd to me. I have only heard it used to include women when used in certain case forms.

  • Second-person singular: seems to becoming more common, but this sounds strange to me. Example, "Settle down, dude!"
  • Second-person plural: this is common, and doesn't sound that odd to me. Example, "OK, dudes, settle down and pay attention!"
  • Third-person singular or plural: I have never heard these forms used to refer to a woman or women.

The word "dude" is a bit like the word "guy". You commonly hear people use "guys" in second-person plural to include women, but I have not noticed people using "guy" in second-person singular to refer to a female.


From Girlfriends and Postfeminist Sisterhood by Alison Winch (Palgrave Publishers 2013):

enter image description here

As you can imagine, the usage is beginning to blur, as with many gender specific terms. I'm glad you didn't ask where the word 'dude' came from (that is a can of worms!). My own theory is that it is from the Spanish 'Duende', which is something that suggests power, dignity and bearing. Flamenco artists use it to describe those amongst their own profession who are at the peak of their game. A possible transmission route through Spanish America to the Old West suggests itself. But in Spanish, 'duende' was (as I understand it) generally a male-specific term.

  • The reference to duende is incorrect. Duende is a deep, passionate spirit celebrating life in the context of exquisite awareness of inevitable death, coupled with a powerful sense of connection to the (literal) earth / dirt of one's homeland. Lorca described it as the dark wellspring for artistic endeavor. Smith calls it "the unforgiving place where the soul confronts emotion, acknowledges death, and finds poetry." In flamenco, it is used to describe the quality of a performance by a singer, dancer , or musician whose performance is raw, passionate, and real. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 6:32

Starting as early as the mid 1990s, according to the TV kid/adolescent sketch comedy show All That - as well as the 1997 film Good Burger - Americans were being strongly lobbied by a movement that insisted 'dude' is indeed gender neutral. The fact that they needed to be so explicit would seem to be evidence that they expected people to disagree - and indeed there were scenes and skits depicting characters who took issue with being called 'dude'.

There's even a song, entitled We're All Dudes! The chorus from the song insists:

I'm a dude

he's a dude

she's a dude

we're all dudes, hey!

The early late 1990s and early 2000s were a time of conservative social pushback, however, as evidenced by the film Dude, Where's My Car? where the term was largely reserved for males (both gay and straight). In the film The Big Lebowski (1998), The Dude was a male character - though notably male persons were not addressed as "dude", but rather as "man".

If you don't agree with this analysis, "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

In American culture, at least, 'dude' has a history of being used to indicate - rightly or wrongly - uneducated, crude, or unrefined types (not merely surfers and skaters, but hippies and basically anyone who did not strongly associate with the "stiff shirt" upper-society and professional business types). It is not an accident that the media has portrayed characters using the word as idiots, and there is always an extent to which this bias both reflects and bleeds out into common society.

In summation: 'dude' is a word in flux, man. So don't, like, let it get to you dude. Like much of a common spoken language, they are terms that are often best avoided in formal settings where a more "proper" form of the language is expected. And be careful who you call buddy, pal, or friend, too.

  • 3
    In the 1995 film Clueless (written by Amy Heckerling), the second female lead, Dionne (Stacey Dash), speaks the following line to the first female lead, Cher (Alicia Silverstone): "Dude, what's wrong? You suffering from buyer's remorse or something?" To which Cher replies: "God no, nothing like that." In that kind of exchange, it's not uncommon, but still not what I'd call commonplace. I'd say that the appropriateness of acceptability of "dude" when addressing a female is still highly context sensitive.
    – Nicole
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 0:05
  • I don't know where you got the idea the term means "crude, or unrefined" since the commonly accepted original use was "a man extremely fastidious in dress and manner" circa 1899. In the American West, cowboys would use 'dude' to refer to e.g. an Easterner playing cowboy in fancy western wear. See also 'dude ranch' was named as such for this reason. In BL, the cowboy character says something to the effect of how no one would want to be called a 'dude' where he came from.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 19:12
  • @JimmyJames I was speaking more to the connotation and socio-cultural indicators of the term, and even in those old uses note that dude was often used explicitly to indicate out-group members, as with the Easterner-playing-cowboy meaning. From Bill and Ted, to Clueless, to Dude Where's My Car (with tons of examples in between) - the people who use the term are played up as unintelligent, dumb, crude/rude, or as hippies, surfer/skaters, Valley girls, etc. So I argue the meaning is more one of connotation, association, and implication, rather than a dictionary definition (and thus changing).
    – BrianH
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:12
  • @BrianDHall The common understanding is that this term is derived from surfer culture and while I am fairly convinced that this is likely how it came into the common lexicon, it's clearly not the origin. In the references you give, it's a mainly a term used by those people, not by people outside of their group to refer to them. I think popular media has associated it with the stoner/slacker world which has a basis in truth but it's also a term used in African American culture. The term 'duds' referring to fancy clothes is something I have heard in common conversation.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:24
  • @JimmyJames Certainly, I don't claim anything about origin - partly because I don't claim to know the origin, and partly because it doesn't have much (if any) effect on it's present day use and meaning. But it's meaning certainly can vary by culture/sub-culture, across time, and across groups of people. The joy of the vernacular!
    – BrianH
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:32

Mid-30s, Southeastern US - Dude might be used in the 2nd person to refer to a female ("Dude! What are you doing?!?" - in my head I'm hearing it in an exclamatory way), but much less likely in the 3rd person if the gender is known female - "chick" being the more likely counterpart (a word that is rarely, so far as I know, used in the 2nd person). It might be used in a gender neutral 3rd person context if the gender is unknown or non-specific ("some dude left it here...").

If I'm using 3rd person gender neutral, I say "guys" for any non-specific group, "dudes" if I'm being casual and/or playing up the "average-ness" of the group for giggles.

I speak this way with my wife and she speaks this way with our daughter. I hear it around the office among the women. Dude has become an informal, universal sobriquet.

  • 2
    In the first example usage: "Dude! What..." I think 'dude' is just an exclamation, not a form of address. You could easily replace it with "God!", "Crap!", "Woah!", or any number of other exclamations that don't even mention a person.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 16:37
  • 1
    @DCShannon it's actually an exclamation as a form of address... it's not fully one or the other. Your suggested alternatives don't fully capture the intent of the phrase, which is first and foremost to grab the attention of the individual to whom you are referring. Consider instead "Dude, look at me", another one my wife and I have used with our children.
    – Jason
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 18:03

The usage of dude, like many other words in transition, varies by geography, ages of speaker and spoken to, and relative status.

Herewith the testimony of a woman of retirement age in the DC area: I would be very surprised to be addressed as "dude" and somewhat offended, unless the speaker were exceptionally charming.

This is in contrast to "guys", which I have totally accepted for years. From recent first hand experience, I can attest that waitresses and waiters (waitpeople?) in Colorado use "you guys" as a matter of course. If I found that offensive, I would have starved! None of them used dudes to a group of which I was a member.

My tennis friends and I often say "guys" when speaking among ourselves. We never say "dudes". Our pro sometimes says "guys", but usually "ladies". He has never ventured into "dudes".

At my funeral, I hope someone will say: "She was a great dude". But I am not ready for it yet.

Conclusion: "Dude" is becoming gender neutral, but be careful with whom you use it.


Yes. I've heard it. And this youtube video from 2012 has it:



throughout my introverted years of high school I did a lot of listening, and I believe that "dude" has definitely become gender neutral. I would hear guys calling girls "dude" and even girls calling girls "dude". I believe it is more of a way to get someone's attention than anything else.

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