Definition of man in English:

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Pronunciation: /man/

noun (plural men /men/)

1An adult human male.
Example sentences
  • Back on the promenade, I saw a man and a boy trying to fly a kite down on the beach.
  • Last week I was talking to a man at the bar of the Hilton hotel at Addis Ababa.
  • An Estonian man suspected of plundering millions from hundreds of online bank accounts accounts across Europe was arrested last week.
male, adult male, gentleman
informal guy, fellow, fella, joe, geezer, gent, bloke, chap, dude, hombre
1.1A male worker or employee: more than 700 men were laid off CNN’s man in India
1.2A male member of a sports team: Johnson took the ball past three men and scored
More example sentences
  • A man short, his team mates survived to the end of extra time but lost the penalty shootout.
  • If they receive two yellow cards a player will be withdrawn from the game, restricting the team to 10 men.
  • But gone are the days when Shankly's men would blast teams away and dominate our domestic game.
worker, workman, laborer, hand, blue-collar worker;
1.3 (men) Ordinary members of the armed forces as distinct from the officers: he had a platoon of forty men to prepare for battle
More example sentences
  • My dad was in the air force, and he spoke about the inequalities he saw between the officers and ordinary men.
  • Orders were made as suggestions and officers and men were on first-name terms.
  • No commander wants to see his men die in combat but knows that casualties are a part of war.
1.4A husband, boyfriend, or lover: the two of them lived for a time as man and wife
More example sentences
  • Maybe, none of the earlier relationships had worked out because Rohan was destined to be her man.
  • It brought out the woman in me and the man in my man.
  • I don't have a problem with women hitting on my man… why wouldn't they?
boyfriend, partner, husband, spouse, lover, admirer, fiancé;
common-law husband, live-in lover, significant other
informal steady, (main) squeeze, BF, boo, toy boy, sugar daddy, intended
dated beau, young man
1.5 [with adjective] A male person associated with a particular place, activity, or occupation: a Harvard man I’m a solid union man
More example sentences
  • My father was a trade union man who always had his rosary in his pocket.
  • Advocate and author John Mayer looks every inch the rock solid establishment man.
  • A battle for power between a union man and an intellectual is looming at Salford town hall.
1.6A male pursued or sought by another, especially in connection with a crime: Inspector Bull was sure they would find their man
More example sentences
  • As soon as we established that Elener was a former Securicor employee, we were fairly sure he was our man.
  • Hugh Miller is convinced that Loring is his man, but he can't find any concrete evidence.
  • Bounty hunters can use almost any tool at their disposal to find and capture their man.
1.7 dated A manservant or valet: get me a cocktail, my man
1.8 historical A vassal.
Example sentences
  • By taking service in William's army he had become the man of the Duke of the Normans.
2A human being of either sex; a person: God cares for all races and all men
More example sentences
  • They are practically indestructible, outlasting anything that mere mortal men can do to them.
  • Need I add that helping and caring for animals is integral to caring for our fellow men?
  • How can we solve something as important as global warming if we don't even care about our fellow men.
2.1 (also Man) [in singular] Human beings in general; the human race: places untouched by the ravages of man
More example sentences
  • Perhaps it may be said that civilization is about to enter the age of the decline of man.
  • Genesis in fact hints that there was evil present in the world before the fall of man.
  • None the less, equality in the eyes of God laid the foundations for equality in the eyes of man and before the law.
the human race, the human species, Homo sapiens, humankind, humanity, human beings, humans, people, mankind
2.2 [in singular] An individual; one: a man could buy a lot with eighteen million dollars
More example sentences
  • A man could get used to that sort of lifestyle.
  • It's great country this. A man could live well here and raise a family.
2.3A person with the qualities often associated with males such as bravery, spirit, or toughness: she was more of a man than any of them
More example sentences
  • He's more of a man than you'll ever be.
  • Ironically, her initial portrayal in the show, as more of a man than the men in her Cabinet, may have added to her myth.
  • But Don's the quintessential quiet guy who must overcome his cowardice and be a man.
2.4 [in singular] A type of prehistoric human named after the place where the remains were found: Cro-Magnon man
More example sentences
  • This is the town which surprised the world with an archeological find in 1921 that came to be known as the Broken Hill Man.
3 (usually the Man) informal A group or person in a position of authority over others, such as a corporate employer or the police: it was a vicarious way of powerless people being able to stick it to the Man
More example sentences
  • There was a time where men had to fight to be the head honcho, The Man.
  • As the economy plods along, many of us are choosing to take the easy way out - we're going to work for the Man, letting him do the hard work while we work the long hours.
  • Some of the more dedicated activists are going to march over to the Guy street police station this afternoon to hold a vigil and voice their displeasure with the Man.
3.1 informal White people collectively regarded as the controlling group in society: he urged that black college athletes boycott the Man’s Rose Bowl
More example sentences
  • But all black officers face the same occupational hazard: race-based taunting. ‘You work for the Man!’
4A figure or token used in playing a board game.
Example sentences
  • Mr Kravchuk, who prides himself on his chess-playing prowess, did not give up his man easily.

verb (mans, manning, manned)

[with object]
1(Of personnel) work at, run, or operate (a place or piece of equipment) or defend (a fortification): the firemen manned the pumps and fought the blaze
More example sentences
  • The centre is manned by fully trained technical personnel and all calls are recorded and logged to track and maintain a high service level.
  • It is believed passengers have been queueing up to two hours in Terminal 1 because only one of five X-ray machines was manned due to staffing problems.
  • Trained volunteers will be manning the call centre to offer independent and confidential information and support to people experiencing difficulties.
1.1Provide someone to fill (a post or office): the chaplaincy was formerly manned by the cathedral
2 archaic Fortify the spirits or courage of: he manned himself with dauntless air


informal, chiefly North American
Used, irrespective of the sex of the person addressed, to express surprise, admiration, delight, etc., or for emphasis: man, what a show!
More example sentences
  • You see a couple in a restaurant or walking on the street and they appear to be so much in love, so happy with each other and you say, man, I wish I could have that.
  • ‘Man it sure was different back in the ol days,’ says Gilbert.
  • Oh, hey man, how's it going? Did you and Lex have a good time last night?


Traditionally, the word man has been used to refer not only to adult males but also to human beings in general, regardless of sex. There is a historical explanation for this: in Old English, the principal sense of man was ‘a human being,’ and the words wer and wif were used to refer specifically to ‘a male person’ and ‘a female person,’ respectively. Subsequently, man replaced wer as the normal term for ‘a male person,’ but at the same time the older sense ‘a human being’ remained in use. In the second half of the 20th century, the generic use of man to refer to ‘human beings in general’ (as in reptiles were here long before man appeared on the earth) became problematic; the use is now often regarded as sexist or old-fashioned. In some contexts, terms such as the human race or humankind may be used instead of man or mankind. Certain fixed phrases and sayings, such as time and tide wait for no man can be easily rephrased (e.g., time and tide wait for no one). Alternatives for other related terms exist as well: the noun manpower, for example, can usually be replaced with staff or crew, and in most cases, the verbal form to man can be expressed as to staff or to operate.



as —— as the next man

As —— as the average person: I’m as ambitious as the next man
More example sentences
  • While as ambitious as the next man, Davies genuinely believes he would not have got where he is now without the help of his former boss at Preston.
  • I am as loyal as the next man to my chosen team but when they are simply outclassed I am, like most true lovers of the game, prepared to admit it.
  • Much has been made of the comfort zone in Scottish rugby which militates against success, and Nicol is as condemnatory as the next man of attitudes which have prevailed among some of the players.

as one man

With everyone acting together or in agreement: the crowd rose to their feet as one man
More example sentences
  • Yet what was most remarkable was the experience of seeing all the participants playing together as one man.
  • The horde reacted as one man, scrambling to their mangy horses and leaving as quickly as possible.
  • Godwin motioned with his hand, and they got up as one man and followed him across the stone floor and out of the hall.

be someone's man

Be the person perfectly suited to a particular requirement or task: for any coloring and perming services, David’s your man
More example sentences
  • Ladies, if you are looking for Mr. Perfect, Todd is your man.
  • If you were looking for a striker to play down the middle then Alan was your man.
  • If we ever needed any ‘unusual pharmaceutical products,’ then he was our man.

be man enough for (or to do)

Be brave enough to do: who’s man enough for the job? he has not been man enough to face up to his responsibilities
More example sentences
  • But at least he was man enough to realise he was wrong and act accordingly.
  • It could have been all three points for the Lions, had referee Clive Penton not made a bizarre mistake that he was man enough to admit to later.
  • You know he was man enough to apologize and to admit his mistake.

every man for himself

proverb Everyone should (or does) look after their own interests rather than considering those of others: when the bottom drops out of the market, it’s every man for himself
More example sentences
  • There were no staff left, it was every man for himself.
  • Around May 22 we were told we have to retreat, that it was every man for himself and we had to make a beeline for the coast.
  • We are working with the constant threat of one closure after another and it is every man for himself.

make a man out of someone

(Of an experience or person) turn a young man into a mature adult: I make men out of them and teach them never to let anyone outsmart them
More example sentences
  • They were really nice and accommodating, knowing that everyone has a different pain tolerance and that getting a tattoo is often the kind of experience that ‘makes a man out of you.’
  • But I think every lad in Rochdale should do it because it makes a man out of you and I think a bit of discipline would put a stop to a lot of trouble.
  • I set sail with the Navy Seals and, let me tell you, they made a man out of me.

man about town

A fashionable male socialite.
Example sentences
  • Away from the radio studio, Antony Collins looks every part the young, trendy media man about town.
  • Fatherhood is changing him: the one-time man about town now talks proudly of how he's mastered the plastic strips on nappies and is allowed to change the baby by himself.
  • There were no real übertrendy apartment blocks then, so a mews was the must-have address for the man about town who worked hard and played hard.

man and boy

dated Throughout life from youth: the time when families worked in the fields man and boy
More example sentences
  • I have lived here for more than 70 years - man and boy - and I won't be pushed out.
  • Rex has been a North End supporter man and boy, and to take the stick of rock analogy, if you chopped him in half he would say ‘Disappointed’ all the way through.
  • But for John Wilberforce Preston, who has fished the rivers and ponds of Craven man and boy for some 50 years, all is not well in the Aire Valley.

the man in the moon

The imagined likeness of a face seen on the surface of a full moon.
9.1Used, especially in comparisons, to refer to someone regarded as out of touch with real life: a kid with no more idea of what to do than the man in the moon

the man in (or on) the street

An ordinary person, often with regard to their opinions, or as distinct from an expert: it will be interesting to hear what the man in the street has to say about these latest tax cuts
More example sentences
  • We must ask ourselves what the man on the Clapham omnibus would think.
  • The man on the Clapham omnibus was heading for Epsom yesterday, along with about half the population of London.
  • Yes, the man on the Clapham omnibus may have faith in national sovereignty, but his faith is faltering.

man of action

see action.

man of the cloth

A clergyman.
Example sentences
  • Gutierrez has not always been a man of the cloth; before entering the priesthood he was a military intelligence operative.
  • A spirited campaign to stop proposed Sunday flights to the Western Isles is being led not by elderly men of the cloth but by a sharp-suited former army major.
  • There were many men of the cloth in Sophiatown, but Huddleston was arguably the most popular.

man of God

A clergyman.
Example sentences
  • In recent e-mail to Willimon, I told him I respect him as a man of God and of the scriptures.
13.1A holy man or saint.
Example sentences
  • No, this was Isaiah, from all indication in the record of Scripture a holy man, a man of God, what would be termed a dedicated Christian.

man of honor

A man who adheres to what is right or to a high standard of conduct.
Example sentences
  • If he were a man of honour, he would have resigned long ago.
  • For a man of honour, a guilty conscience must be a dreadful, perhaps unbearable burden.
  • He is a man of honour who behaves with reserve and circumspection towards Elinor while he is bound to Lucy Steele by an engagement that only she can honourably break.

man of the house

The male head of a household.
Example sentences
  • Mrs Boone said: ‘After his dad died, he became the man of the house.’
  • His father left the family and Mitchell recalls telling his mother and siblings: ‘I'll look after you; I'm the man of the house now.’
  • In a somber tone, he alluded to the fact that he would not always be around to handle male responsibilities such as this, and someday, I would be the man of the house.

man of letters

A male scholar or author.
Example sentences
  • Returning from America, he settled down to the career of a man of letters.
  • By the end of the decade, his career was flourishing and he was well on his way to establishing his postwar reputation as a man of letters.
  • Sir Walter Scott, Scotland's greatest man of letters, and one of the most beloved authors of all time, was born in Edinburgh on 15 August 1771.

man of the moment

A man of importance at a particular time.
Example sentences
  • Rob Deering is comedy's man of the moment, and this year's Edinburgh could be the big one.
  • Clarke is not ruling out a future career in management although he's more than happy to continue learning his trade at the feet of the man of the moment in European football.
  • James seems to be very much the man of the moment.

man of the world

see world.

man's best friend

An affectionate or approving way of referring to the dog.
Example sentences
  • Everyone knows that dogs are affectionate and loyal - they're not called man's best friend for nothing!
  • Humans share three-quarters of their genes with man's best friend, the first genetic blueprint of the domestic dog revealed yesterday.
  • This year, they were taking a lenient attitude to those who turned up with pooch in tow - much to the annoyance of those who had read about the ban in the Craven Herald and had left man's best friend at home.

a man's man

A man whose personality is such that he is as popular and at ease, or more so, with other men than with women.
Example sentences
  • Ritchie enjoys a reputation as a man's man: a hard-working, all-action, shooting, fishing sort of a chap who has knocked about a bit and can look after himself.
  • He's a man's man with a notoriously robust attitude to women.
  • Despite his good behaviour nowadays, he remains very much a man's man.

man to man (or man-to-man)

1In a direct and frank way between two men; openly and honestly: he was able to talk man to man with the delegates a man-to-man chat
More example sentences
  • I realize you are my employer, but I'd like to speak with you man to man for a moment, if I may.
  • I'm very much looking forward to seeing him and sitting down and talking to him man to man.
  • Dad did occasionally try to talk to me in a man-to-man, father-to-son kind of way.
frankly, openly, honestly, directly, candidly, plainly, forthrightly, without beating about the bush;
2Denoting a defensive tactic in a sport such as football or basketball in which each player is responsible for defending against one opponent: Washington’s cornerbacks are fast enough to cover man-to-man
More example sentences
  • One of the biggest keys to a good man to man defensive scheme is what is called player recognition.
  • Concentrate on dribbling, passing, shooting and playing man to man defense.
  • I am sure that if you see TV and watch other matches you will see a lot of goals scored from set-pieces, corners and free-kicks against teams who mark man to man.

men in white coats

Medical or laboratory staff, especially doctors.
Example sentences
  • Wilson handed a good amount of money to the doctor who signaled two men in white coats to take Henry.
  • In a brightly lit chamber, deep beneath the streets of Sturminster, two men in white coats pore over a central table.
  • Heavens, the men in white coats don't even know whether or not to vaccinate the beasts.
humorous22.1 Psychiatrists or psychiatric workers (used to imply that someone is mad or mentally unbalanced): I wondered how much more stupid I could get before the men in white coats would lead me away
More example sentences
  • A break away with my family from the madness that is SPL decision-making is probably all that has prevented me getting up close and personal with the men in white coats.
  • Having spent more than an hour with the Prime Minister on Saturday morning, I can't report that he looked in the least bit like a candidate for the men in white coats.
  • They'd probably have rung the men in white coats to take me away.

separate (or sort out) the men from the boys

informal Show or prove which people in a group are truly competent, brave, or mature.
Example sentences
  • This is the part of the competition that separates the men from the boys.
  • More than any other, a tour of Australia separates the men from the boys.
  • This two mile Derby consists of four circuits of the track and is a race where stamina, strength and speed to the finish separate the men from the boys and only the fittest and most highly trained will succeed.

to a man

Without exception: to a man, we have all taken a keen interest in the business
More example sentences
  • We had, to a man, missed the greatest event in the history of football, ever.
  • The team had played to its full potential by playing outstanding football to a man.
  • In a game where it was a pity to see a loser the Comer boys can feel proud of their performance to a man.
without exception, with no exceptions, bar none, one and all, everyone, each and every one, unanimously, as one

Phrasal verbs

man up

US informal Be brave or tough enough to deal with an unpleasant situation: you just have to man up and take it
More example sentences
  • Now to his credit, here is Sean Hannity, manning up.
  • At a rally later in the day he manned up.
  • Dean will have to do a lot more than man up to overcome the President's popularity.



Example sentences
  • With the advent of electronics and automation techniques, the prospects of manless coal mining are very promising.
  • This article, ‘The manless homes of England’, acknowledges the void left in England after numerous men went to fight in World War I.
  • I'd just been going through a pretty manless period.


Old English man(n), (plural) menn (noun), mannian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch man, German Mann, and Sanskrit manu 'mankind'.

  • The English word man goes back to an age-old root that also gave manu, ‘humankind’, in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. From Anglo-Saxon times, man meant both ‘a person of either sex’ and ‘an adult male’, as well as the human race in general. Shakespeare's Hamlet provided the phrase man and boy, when the gravedigger says, ‘I have been sexton here, man and boy, for thirty years.’ The original man for all seasons was Sir Thomas More, the scholar and statesman who wrote Utopia and was beheaded for opposing Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn. It came into prominence in 1960 as the title of a play about More by Robert Bolt. A clergyman is a man of the cloth. The writer Jonathan Swift first used ‘the cloth’ to refer to the clergy in 1710. A clergyman's ‘cloth’ had meant his profession since the mid 17th century, and before that other occupations which stipulated a special dress code or uniform, notably the law and the military, had also been referred to as a person's ‘cloth’.

    Man for humans in general survives in expressions such as the man in the street. The judge Lord Bowen, who died in 1894, used the man on the Clapham omnibus (Clapham is a district of south London) to refer to any ordinary reasonable person, such as a juror is expected to be. ‘ Man cannot live by bread alone’ is found in two passages of the Bible, one from the Old Testament in Deuteronomy, and the other from the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew. The proverb man proposes, God disposes goes back to the 15th century, but also reflects a 14th-century French saying. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato provided a precedent for man is the measure of all things, recorded in English from the mid 16th century.

    As a way of addressing someone, man goes right back to the Anglo-Saxons and was common in the 18th and 19th centuries, although the old uses tended to sound impatient or encouraging—‘Pick up your feet, man!’ The modern use of man, often expressing surprise, admiration, or delight, came from the speech of black Americans. See also mouse

Words that rhyme with man

Aberfan, Adrianne, an, Anne, artisan, astrakhan, ban, began, Belmopan, bipartisan, bran, can, Cannes, Cézanne, Cheyenne, clan, courtesan, cran, dan, Dayan, Diane, divan, élan, Elan, fan, flan, foreran, Fran, Friedan, Gell-Mann, gran, Han, Hunan, Ivan, Jan, Japan, Jinan, Joanne, Kazan, Klan, Kordofan, Lacan, Lausanne, Leanne, Limousin, Louvain, Mann, Marianne, Milan, Moran, nan, Oran, outran, outspan, Pan, panne, parmesan, partisan, pavane, pecan, Pétain, plan, Pusan, ran, rataplan, rattan, Rosanne, Sagan, Saipan, saran, scan, scran, sedan, span, spick-and-span, Spokane, Suzanne, Tainan, tan, than, tisane, trepan, van, vin, Wuhan, Xian, Yerevan, Yunnan, Zhongshan

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: man

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