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Q From Douglas Muir Hutton: Is there an opposite to misogynist?

A If you consider that the opposite of misogynist, woman-hater, is a lover of women, the only one given in any of my books of synonyms and antonyms is feminist, which doesn’t meet the need at all. If you split the Greek word into its constituent parts, you find it is made up of miso-, hate (a prefix that turns up in English in a number of rare or facetious words, including misocapnist for a hater of tobacco smoke), plus gyn meaning woman (as in gynaecologist), plus the -ist ending that indicates an agent noun. So we can replace the first element with philo-, for love, to get philogynist instead. This is listed in most larger dictionaries, with the abstract noun given as philogyny, love of women. The first citation given in the Oxford English Dictionary is from T H Huxley’s Lay Sermons of 1865, and if it’s good enough for Darwin’s Bulldog, it’s good enough for me.

But you could argue, with one subscriber, that there’s another way to look at the opposite of misogynist: not a woman-lover, but a man-hater. The latter, he suggests, could be Greeked as misandronist, using andro for man. It’s very rare, but I have found a couple of examples in online messages. It seems to be from the more extreme end of the feminist spectrum. Terry Walsh has told me firmly that this word is way off beam: “misandronist, if it means anything, means someone who is against the idea of there being rooms or clubs reserved for men, which is derived from andron, the men’s room in an ancient Greek house, into which women could not go”. So that’s a potentially useful word, but not the one we were looking for. A better modern Greek term for a man-hater is misandrist, though it’s hardly common and appears in only a few dictionaries, with the noun for the concept being, as you’d expect, misandry.

If you need a Greek word at all, stick with philogynist or misandrist, depending on which idea you want to convey. Or, you could just try English instead ...

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 20 Feb. 1999
Last updated: 13 Jul. 1999

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-phi1.htm
Last modified: 13 July 1999.