I'm writing a story that has a secret society or gang called "The Brotherhood", and I want to know if this term implies that all members are males (because of the term "Brother").

Would this name still make sense if the story included female characters involved with The Brotherhood?


I will try to clarify:

The term 'guys' is translated to "fiúk" or "srácok" in the Hungarian language, which all means "boys". But in English you can use 'guys' for females too. So in the translation the 'both sexes' meaning became lost. That is why I need to know if 'Brotherhood' can be used for a group that includes both males and females. In Hungarian 'Brotherhood' translated to 'testvériség' which is a sexless term. 'testvér' could be male or female too. But I would like to know if it is true for the English language too with this term?

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    As a story, you can define a particular brotherhood any way you wish. By common usage, however, a brotherhood consists of men. Just as a sisterhood consists of women. (But this need not always be the case.) Apr 28, 2018 at 9:22
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    In English, how could "brotherhood" not be all male? In your story, how is it not up to you to use any such term in any way you choose? Apr 29, 2018 at 22:10
  • @RobbieGoodwin Maybe I do not really understand your questions but I have edited my question to clarify. May 3, 2018 at 9:14
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    Why are people voting to close? This is such an interesting question, and one not to be resoved by dictionary search.
    – anemone
    May 3, 2018 at 15:52
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    Note that "guys" is really only gender-inclusive in some pretty specific circumstances: chiefly when used in the second person ("you guys") and limited to certain regions. Something like "I saw a group of guys standing on the corner" or "I was talking to this guy" would pretty exclusively be understood to refer to male people.
    – 1006a
    May 4, 2018 at 2:26

4 Answers 4


My knee-jerk answer was that "brotherhood" doesn't (yet, at least) have this inclusiveness. But let's check a dictionary definition. Here's what American Heritage has:

  1. The state or relationship of being brothers.
  2. Fellowship.
  3. An association of men, such as a fraternity or union, united for common purposes.
  4. All the members of a profession or trade.

2 and 4 don't back up my initial idea.

Conclusion: you might not be able to count on everyone understanding your use of the word "brotherhood" as being gender-inclusive; so I suggest you either choose a different word, or make sure the inclusiveness you want is made clear in the context.

  • This is exactly what my searches have produced. Dictionary entries look as if the term could refer to communities with male and female members. A search for particular brotherhoods has shown that they are either male, or male with a sort of separate female faction. I think a skilled author can still get away with the inclusive meaning, but he or she needs to be explicit about it.
    – anemone
    May 4, 2018 at 19:36
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    In fact some people have started using "siblinghood" to be more inclusive @anemone, as explained at theoldshelter.com/the-siblinghood-of-the-world-bloggers-tag/… May 5, 2018 at 1:22

In my opinion brotherhood could refer to all, regardless of sex. In the example given, in English 'guys' can be used for females as well. Like how saying, 'man' or 'men', in reference to man-kind, does not only apply to those of the male gender.

(Though such seems not to apply the other way around, referring to a male as a 'female' that is. But I'm getting off topic -~-;)

So yes, you could use 'brotherhood' to refer to those not of male sex, 'most no-one would correct you in the very least, and most would not be confused by the usage of the word.

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    Hello, Yozora. Answers based on opinion alone are not well received on ELU. May 3, 2018 at 21:38
  • @EdwinAshworth Perhaps you mean "answers backed by opinion only" or some such. Surely users do have opinions on stuff.
    – anemone
    May 4, 2018 at 19:39
  • Although it is often claimed, mainly by men, that ‘man’ is gender neutral it clearly isn’t in practice (ie how it is perceived by people). Claiming that brotherhood is inclusive is even more of a stretch.
    – user184130
    May 27, 2018 at 12:20

The phrase “brotherhood of man” has† frequently been used in terms in which it is clear that “man” signifies “mankind” or “humanity”, and thus that the word “brotherhood” includes both men and women.

An example of this is the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Inaugural Robert Burns Memorial Lecture, which was entitled:

“The Brotherhood of Man”

and alternatively expressed there as:

“Brotherhood, Tolerance, Coexistence among all Peoples”

Clearly Annan is including women “all Peoples” and likewise Robbie Burns’ in his poem:

“Man to Man, the world o’er, Shall brothers be for a’ that”

†And still is by some of us, at least on one side of the Atlantic.


I just wrote an email to my french male friend. I used the term that I enjoy the fraternatie between us. This means brotherhood. Though in this context I think he will understand.

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