I am trying to prepare myself to going into the international social space. In doing so, I saw the video: Feminist "Mansplaining" Video Goes Wrong and I do not understand something: What is mansplaining?

I found the following definition in a Google search:

Oxford Living Dictionary's definition of mansplain

(of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

I also saw 17 Absolutely Infuriating Examples of Mansplaining which was written by Gina Mei for Cosmopolitan, which provides the following example:

I once had a friend mansplain to my roommate how to ~correctly~ pronounce her own name bc he thought she was doing it wrong

However, this still left the meaning of the word somewhat ambiguous to me. I also searched on English Language & Usage to see if there was a question that was like mine, but I did not find any.

Present Understanding

I think mansplaining is something like saying, 'Hey you are a woman, and you can't understand it'.

For example: A woman has an idea about football, and a man responds with a statement like "Women do not understand football", but I am not quite certain.

What Might Help

Can you give me a good scenario or more expressive definition, which demonstrates what mansplaining really is?

  • 2
    Good answers will explain, in addition to the meaning. How the word was formed.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 18:56
  • 2
    It may be worth noting that the Internet is rife with neologisms patterned on mansplaining, including womansplaining, dadsplaining, momsplaining, kidsplaining, teensplaining, whitesplaining, blacksplaining, libsplaining, consplaining, and (perhaps my favorite) godsplaining. The efflorescence of this form shows how effective and nettlesome the original term (mansplaining) was as an insult/observation of a widespread socio-cultural phenomenon.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 20:36
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    Your Oxford definition states it nicely. What’s troubling you about it?
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 20:40
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    Has anyone actually bothered to watch the video? it's terribly unsympathetic and anti-feminist. I don't know how rife or how frequent "mansplaining" is at the workplace because I live in Italy, and I prefer to answer questions which I've some personal experience of, but the man doing the voice over is sneering beyond belief. The lady interviewer may be naive, inexperienced and poor at doing her job (the excerpt is heavily edited) but the video does prove one thing that the male commenter strongly disdains American feminists.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 12:22
  • 1
    Note that in the description, a link is included to PRO-AMERICAN, ANTI-SJW MERCH [sic]
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 12:26

4 Answers 4


The following extract from “The Guardian” dated January 2018 notes that the neologism “mansplain” has finally entered the OED, after about ten years from its earliest usages. Interenstly the OED notes that the idea behind the term has already become rooted in language.

Mansplain” also enters the dictionary for the first time.

According to the OED, just 10 years ago the word did not exist, “but the verb (of a man: to explain something needlessly, overbearingly, or condescendingly, especially to a woman, in a manner thought to reveal a patronising or chauvinistic attitude) and the concept it describes now have a firm foothold in the language”.

The earliest known use of mansplain occurs in a pair of comments on the social networking website LiveJournal in August 2008, said the dictionary. The exchange sees a woman “thanking” a male blog commentator for “mansplaining” to her, and he responds asking if it was really “mansplaining”. The term is often misattributed to writer Rebecca Solnit and her book Men Explain Things to Me, though she never used the term in the eponymous essay.

“If those really are the first occurrences of the verb mansplain or the noun mansplaining (in quick succession), then this is a rare example of seeing linguistic creativity in action, and perhaps an insight into what can drive such innovation,” said the dictionary.

Despite its recent coinage, the term is present also in Etymonline:

Mansplain (v.)

"to explain, as a man to a woman, in a way that she feels insults or ignores her intelligence and experience in the matter," by 2008, from man (n.) + second element from explain (v.). The form 'splain, as a clip of explain, had been used at least since the 1960s as a colloquialism.

It is worth noting that the term “splain” was used mainly with a sarcastic tone and often with a negative connotation well before the term “mansplain” was first used. Merriam-Webster, on this point, notes that:

Sometime in the last 30 years, a subtle shift in its use took place. 'Splain began to be used sarcastically, particularly in Usenet chat rooms, to call out someone for explaining something either without taking the original poster’s comments into consideration or in a extensive and sometimes condescending way.

By 2004, 'splain had gained enough of a negative connotation that when a poster to rec.crafts.woodturning shuts down someone with a sarcastic "could you be a little more splainy about your comment to us," no one jumps in to ask what the excellent splainy means.

From that background the neologism “mansplain” was used from the start with a negative connotation as the the following extract explains:

Mansplaining is

a portmanteau of man and splaining (short for explaining), the Oxford Dictionary defines mansplaining as “the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” It’s the name for the phenomenon that has plagued women for much of history, with most women who I asked exhaling a knowing “Ahhh yes.”

There are multitude reasons why being mansplained to is frustrating, ranging from the fact it might be what you just said repeated back to you in a different way or perhaps the explainer is attempting to coach you on something they are ignorantly unaware that you know a lot about. Whatever the reason, it’s no secret among women that men have been doing this for a very long time and now there’s a word for it.


  • 4
    Another instance where I find the downvotes utterly baffling.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 3:44
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    In the U.S., the expression "splain [something]" is associated with Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnez) on the I Love Lucy TV show (1951–1957 and in reruns forever). Ricky spoke with a heavy Cuban accent. You can hear him pronounce the word "esplain", followed by his wife Lucy (Lucille Ball) repeating the word as "splain" in a flat American accent at 0:20 (and 0:25) and again at 0:35 (and 0:40). This running gag about Ricky's pronunciation led to the catch-phrase "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do", though Ricky never used that phrase on the show.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 8:52

Although women are most often the targets, I think that the central quality of "mansplaining" is explaining something to somebody that they already know and in fact know better than the mansplainer and that this should be obvious to the mansplainer. The example of explaining to somebody how to pronounce their own name is a beautiful example.

  • 1
    I don’t think there’s any element of the mansplainee necessarily knowing better than the mansplainer – I’d say it’s more about the mansplainer believing that they know the thing they’re talking about better than the mansplainee. Sometimes, that does happen to be true, while other times the other person knows way more; what makes it mansplaining is not who knows what, but the mansplainer’s attitude, their certainty that of course the other person doesn’t know, that only they know and can explain. Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 21:11
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, but surely it is relevant whether the explainer's attitude is justified, and a part of what makes it (un)justified is whether the explainer in fact has greater relevant expertise than the recipient of the explanation. We wouldn't use the word mansplaining for an expert's explanation of something within the field of his expertise, to a beginning student, even though the expert has the 'certainty that of course the other person doesn’t know, that only they know and can explain'.
    – jsw29
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 22:04
  • @jsw29 In that case, it is actual certainty, and in most cases the explanation bears that out: it’s a situation where the student is there deliberately in order to learn, and the teacher is there to explain. Mansplaining implies explaining something to someone with the untried assumption that they don’t know it, and disregarding the fact that they’re probably not interested in being lectured. That same expert would be mansplaining if giving the same explanation to the bored woman at the bar, not because she knows his field, but because the situation is different. Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 22:09
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet Clearly you have never been trapped in an airplane seat next to somone determined to educate you on a subject that they obviously know very little about, as shown by extremely elementary mistakes, such as repeatedly advising using mercenaries from Blackrock [sic] to fix the problems in the mid-East. What can one say? Ask them if they invest with Blackwater?
    – ab2
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 2:44
  • @ab2 That is classical mansplaining: assumption (untried and frequently false) that they know more about the subject than you, and complete disregard for whether you have any interest in having the topic ‘explained’ to you. Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 7:32

No, responding with "Women do not understand football" is not part of mansplaining. It might accompany mansplaining, but usually the judgment on the hearer is not explicit.

Mansplaining is not usually either rude or consciously dismissive; on the contrary, it is usually intended to be helpful. But the mansplainer either makes unwarranted assumptions about the level of knowledge or understanding of the hearer, or explains it to them in a patronising way, as though to a child.

The behaviour is common, and is not always by a man to a woman; but that case occurs often enough that people have invented a word for it.

  • Not sure “it is usually intended to be helpful”. It sounds somewhat derogatory to me. “Mansplaining (a blend of the word man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining) is a pejorative term meaning "(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner" en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansplaining
    – user 66974
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 17:06
  • @jsw29: edited to clarify what my "No" was aimed at.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 17:58
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    @user240918: the word is derogatory. But the activity often has the best of intentions, though there may be some self congratulation mixed in with it.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 18:00

Perhaps the extreme example of mansplaining is for a man to interject himself into a conversation on Subject S among several women, and pontificate on Subject S at a level that might be suitable for a child, but only betrays the shallowness of his knowledge on the subject to his hearers, all the while speaking over any "Yes, but..." interjections from the women. Fortunately, fewer women will stand for this. A good riposte from the women is to ask a question involving, say chaos theory, which can be tortured into applicability on almost any subject.

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