A woman is a female human being. The term woman is usually reserved for an adult, with the term girl being the usual term for a female child or adolescent. The term woman is also sometimes used to identify a female human, regardless of age, as in phrases such as “women’s rights”. Women with typical genetic development are usually capable of giving birth from puberty until menopause. With regard to gender, a woman may also be a person whose sex assignment does not align with their gender identity, or those who have sexual characteristics that do not fit typical notions of male or female (intersex).
The spelling of “woman” in English has progressed over the past millennium from wīfmann to wīmmann to wumman, and finally, the modern spelling woman. In Old English, wīfmann meant “female human”, whereas wērmeant “male human”. Mann or monn had a gender-neutral meaning of “human”, corresponding to Modern English “person” or “someone”; however, subsequent to the Norman Conquest, man began to be used more in reference to “male human”, and by the late 13th century had begun to eclipse usage of the older term wēr. The medial labial consonants f and m in wīfmann coalesced into the modern form “woman”, while the initial element wīf, which meant “female”, underwent semantic narrowing to the sense of a married woman (“wife”).
It is a popular misconception that the term “woman” is etymologically connected to “womb”. “Womb” is actually from the Old English word wambe meaning “stomach” (modern German retains the colloquial term “Wampe” from Middle High German for “potbelly”).
The symbol for the planet and goddess Venus or Aphrodite in Greek is the sign also used in biology for the female sex. It is a stylized representation of the goddess Venus’s hand-mirror or an abstract symbol for the goddess: a circle with a small equilateral cross underneath. The Venus symbol also represented femininity, and in ancient alchemy stood for copper. Alchemists constructed the symbol from a circle (representing spirit) above an equilateral cross (representing matter).
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