hermaphrodite vs. androgynous

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Charwalk, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. What is the difference between 'hermaphrodite' and 'androgynous'?
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Have you tried looking them up in the dictionary at the top of the page (or any other dictionary), Charwalk?


    In 'common parlance' hermaphrodite generally refers to the medical condition whereby a person has both male and female physical/anatomical characteristics.

    Whereas androgynous is more to do with what a person looks like with all their clothes on ~ it's not anatomical, it's 'personal' (i.e. of the person).
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  3. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I'm going to break a self-imposed silence here.

    Saying "look them up in a dictionary" doesn't necessarily help. Mine (Chambers Concise 1988) gives:

    Androgynous = having the characteristics of both male and female in one individual.
    Hermaphrodite = uniting the characteristics of both sexes.

    - so no help there.

    In terms of botany, the two terms may be synonymous. However, in human terms there is a big difference.

    Hermaphrodite is a rather old-fashioned term for what is now called intersex. This is a divergence in chromosomes from the standard XY (for men) or XX (women). There are a large number of intermediate chromosome forms (XXY, XXX, XXYY, X and others), and many who have them are unaware of the fact until, perhaps, they seek treatment for infertility.

    Androgynous refers not to the chromosomes but to the outward appearance. A woman who is tall and flat-chested, or a man with smooth skin and long hair may look neither typically male nor typically female but rather between the two. This could be natural, or a deliberate fashion statement (a woman who cuts her hair short, a man who uses grooming products).
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    The difference is quite well covered by 'our' dictionary, the Concise OED.
    I rather thought I'd said all that in post #2.
  5. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Ewie, our posts seem to have crossed.

    Not all dictionaries are equally accurate.

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