I need to know when 「女性観」 was coined and, more importantly, when it became widely known/used. Was 「女性観」used in the early to mid-19th century? Did it replace 「婦人観」later on?

Nitobe Inazo used 「婦人観」 in his early to mid-20th c. writing and I have not, so far, seen him use 「女性観」.

I searched for "女性観" 造語 in Google but I could not easily find an answer about the origin of 「女性観」.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

2 Answers 2


It's surprisingly easy to trace the origin of 女性観 since 日本国語大辞典 (日国) cites its first appearance.


But I don't much think it's appropriate to say it was "coined", because it's but an ordinary idea to put them together if you know both the words 女性 and 観. By the way, 女性 itself seems to have gained the meaning "woman" quite recently. Again from 日国:

*英和双解字典〔1885〕〈棚橋一郎〉「Womankinds. female sex; race of women 女人(じょじん)。女性(ジョセイ)」

The dictionary also suggests that this usage of 女性 has spread from the translation of grammatical "feminine" gender. So it can be said that 女性 was a brand new neologism at that time, while 婦人 for "adult woman" has more than 1,000 years of history having this meaning.


*律〔718〕名例・婦人有官位条「凡婦人有官位罪者 各依其位議請減贖当免之律


Nitobe Inazo used 「婦人観」 in his early to mid-19th c. writing and I have not, so far, seen him use 「女性観」.

this part of your post doesn't seem right to me, because I believe Nitobe Inazo, who was born in 1862, was not able to author a writing in "early to mid-19th c." Anyway, from the reasons above I can safely assume that 婦人 was a steady word to refer to "women" through the lifetime of Nitobe. Besides, I found Japanese WP states that 婦人 was once revived during women's lib movement in interwar period, which can be taken into account.

Quite aside from question, but of course 婦人 is mostly outdated today except a handful of surviving proper names or fixed terms like 婦人服, 婦人科 etc.


I'm afraid I don't have any authoritative reference, but have you checked the Wikipedia article 婦人?




So 婦人 was a stylish word back in the early 20th century, but now it's a dated word. The article also says some feminists accused 婦人 of being "politically incorrect" in 1990's, saying the right part of 婦 is from 箒 (broom).

My personal impression of 婦人 is the same; today it's closer to madam than woman, and many compounds which use 婦人 smell like Taisho period to me. Perhaps 婦人服 is relatively still common now, but I feel even this word is disappearing except in traditional department stores like 三越.


I found this thorough article regarding the usage of 女性 and 婦人:

「婦人」と「女性」-ことばの歴史社会学- by Takako Hiroi http://hiroitz.sakura.ne.jp/resources/%E8%AB%96%E6%96%87/woman.pdf

According to this, 婦人 was the accepted translation of English woman which firstly came into use at around 1870. Owing to its "modern western" feelings, it caught on from around 1885 until 1920's. Countless words using 婦人 appeared in those days. However:


As the status of women improved in Japan, 婦人 became gradually worn-out, because it too much gained the "women-in-the-society" connotation during the 大正デモクラシー political movement. People needed more neutral word for 'women'.

As for the etymology of 女性, it first appeared in Meiji era, and at first it was a rare word which was used to translate feminine gender found in western languages. But as 婦人 became unpopular, 女性 replaced it because 女性 looked more neutral and objective. The first book with the title containing 女性 was published in 1901, and after the 1930's it became dominant. Thereafter 婦人 survived in limited situations, but it inevitably gained "married", "elder", or "ma'am" connotation as we know today.

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