“Asexual” Updated in the OED

(Take that, “but that’s not what the dictionary says” sticklers!)

This March, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is widely considered the most comprehensive of authorative english language dictionary, released a new update that included major additions and expansions to sexual and gender identity terminology. (This is part of a series of ongoing revisions, with new releases roughly every three months, as part of the process of generating the third edition of the OED).

Part of this update was a major overhaul of the entry for “Asexual“, which has been greatly expanded from the original 1989 definition by the addition of several different “senses”, or possible meanings of the word. Each sense was also given additional dated historical use sample citations from various primary sources. [A/N The entry for “asexuality” and was similarly updated. I have not transcribed it here since it follows similar lines, but I could add it in a separate post if there is interest.]

The actual OED definitions are behind a paywall, but if you have a library card there is a good chance your library already subscribes, so you can login with just your library card number. If not, you can look below the read more to view the relevant excerpts with links to full PDF snapshots.

Overall, as an ace and an amateur linguistics enthusiast, I have to say I’m pretty well satisfied by this update – at least as far as “asexual” and “asexuality” goes. Now we just need to coax them into adding ace, aromantic, and all the other community lingo…

The 1989 Definition [roughly transcribed]:

As an Adjective – [Biology]
a. Not sexual, without sex. In Bot. formerly applied to cryptogams; cf. agamic.
b. In general contexts: without sexuality.

The 2018 Definition [roughly transcribed]:

A. As an Adjective:

1. [Biology] Lacking sexual organs or function; (formerly) †designating plants lacking true flowers and seeds (cryptogams) (obs.). Also of reproduction: occurring without the fusion of male and female gametes, e.g. by fission, budding, or parthenogenesis; produced by such a process. Cf. AGAMIC adj.

a. Without sexual feelings or desires; not sexually attracted to anyone.
b. Not involving sexual intercourse or other sexual activity; celibate, platonic. Also: lacking in sexual or erotic character or motivation; non-sexual.

3. Neither clearly masculine nor feminine in appearance, style, etc.; androgynous. Sometimes coloured by sense A.2.


B. As a Noun:

1. [Biology] An organism which does not reproduce sexually; an asexual, parthenogenetic, or vegetative form.

2. An asexual person; one who has no sexual feelings or desires, or who is not sexually attracted to anyone.



About Sennkestra

I'm an aro ace and a bit of an [a]sexuality nerd; an officer worker by day and an ace community organizer and activist by night. When I'm not reading stuff on the internet I like to cook fancy food, watch anime, and make arts and crafts projects.
This entry was posted in Asexual Research, Awareness Outreach and Education, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “Asexual” Updated in the OED

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    Very cool. At Creating Change’s Asexuality, Gray-Asexuality, and Aromanticism caucus this year we presented the update to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Now we have this!

  2. Siggy says:

    Neat! I see that the examples for the last definition come from 1907, 1974, 1996, and 2015. So they see it as a definition with a long history.

  3. Pingback: Linkspam: April 6th, 2018 | The Asexual Agenda

  4. L M Dee says:

    Thank you for sharing this

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s