Definition of man in English:

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Pronunciation: /man/

noun (plural men /mɛn/)

1An adult human male: a small man with mischievous eyes the men’s semi-finals
More 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, youth
informal guy, fellow, geezer, gent, mother's son
British informal bloke, chap, lad
North American informal dude, bozo, hombre
Australian/New Zealand informal digger
South African informal oke, ou, oom
Indian informal admi
Scottish & Irish informal bodach
British informal, dated cove
Scottish archaic carl
1.1A male member of a workforce, team, etc. over 700 men were made redundant
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  • If they receive two yellow cards a player will be withdrawn from the game, restricting the team to 10 men.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, labourer, helper, hand, blue-collar worker
See also staff
1.2 (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.
1.3A husband 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, amour, inamorato;
common-law husband, escort, live-in lover, significant other, cohabitee
British informal boyf
North American informal squeeze
South African informal jong
informal, dated intended
archaic leman
1.4 [with modifier] A male person associated with a particular place, activity, or occupation: a Cambridge man I’m a solid Labour 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.
1.5A person with the qualities 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.
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
Military , dated batman
North American  houseman
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 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.
2.2 [in singular, with adjective or noun modifier] 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 (the Man) informal A group or person in a position of authority over others, such as a corporate employer or the police: they’ve mastered their emotive grunge-pop without haggling with 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 helpline is manned by trained staff 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): 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: wow, like cosmic, man
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 twentieth 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 at best old-fashioned. In some contexts, alternative terms such as the human race or humankind may be used. Fixed phrases and sayings such as time and tide wait for no man can be easily rephrased, e.g. time and tide wait for nobody. Alternatives for terms such as manpower or the verb man exist: for example, staff or employees, and 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 (or the) man

Be the person perfectly suited to a particular requirement or task: if it’s war you want, I’m 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 to do (or for)

Be brave enough to do: 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 and the Devil take the hindmost

proverb Everyone should (or does) look after their own interests rather than considering those of others: in previous student flats she’d shared, it was every man for himself
With allusion to a chase by the Devil, in which the slowest will be caught
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: swimming will make a man out of you
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: in a well-cut black suit he looked quite the man about town
More 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

From childhood: I’ve been with this company 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 black

Soccer informal The referee: I would not put it past the men in black to get things horribly wrong

the man in the moon

The imagined likeness of a face seen on the surface of a full moon.

the man in (or on) the street

The average man: he had been his eyes and ears in the community, voiced the opinions of the man in the street
More example sentences
  • Your average man on the street, when asked to comment on the fiasco, didn't care about the bank so long as his or her money was all right.
  • Thanks to the Arts Council England, buying original works of art has now become a reality for the average man in the street through the council's new scheme Own Art.
  • It may seem like a lot of money to the average man in the street, because it is, but in relative terms, the players can afford to lose that.

the man in white

Australian Rules Football informal An umpire, especially a field umpire: he’s constantly on the wrong side of the whistle of the man in white
More example sentences
  • Footy fans will be fascinated by the men in white and the things they say out there in the heat of battle.
  • Players contribute each week to the lowly fee that the men in white receive.
  • A physical encounter is expected to keep the men in white tightly controlling what should be a cliffhanger of a match.

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
  • ‘There was never a conflict between my role as a man of God and my role as a member of the SAS,’ he said.
  • In due course he appeared before three men of God in the Washington DC archdiocese.
  • But I have certainly benefited from daily readings by different men of God over the years, reflecting the grace of God in their experience.
15.1A 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 honour

A man who adheres to what is right or to a high standard of conduct: as a man of honour he had little alternative but to accompany his friend to America
More 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: he wished to fashion for himself a career as a man of letters
More 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 match

British The team member who has given the most outstanding performance in a particular game: McClair, who scored the only goal, was named man of the match
More example sentences
  • The whole team worked hard but Jack Collins was named man of the match for a solid performance at the back.
  • He scored a hat-trick of tries during the game and was named man of the match.
  • George Meehan was outstanding in defence and Harry Tosney was man of the match.

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 straw

1 another term for straw man.
Example sentences
  • Murray does demonstrate that the men of straw have failed to silence him, for which he deserves much praise.
  • My accusers will be men of straw and I will not have the financial ability to pursue a claim for malicious prosecution.
  • These are men of straw of whom no trace will be found after a few years.
2A person undertaking a financial commitment without adequate means.
Example sentences
  • Some of the borrowing was by companies to whom loans should never have been contemplated, on apparently over-valued property, and where guarantors turned out to be men of straw.
  • Unless the claimant is seeking an injunction, it is a profitless exercise to sue a man of straw since the remedy will be empty and the claimant left to meet his own legal costs.
  • The trial judge found that there was overwhelming evidence that the husband was a man of straw with no financial capacity to conduct the litigation.

man of the world

see world.

the man on the Clapham omnibus

British The average man, especially with regard to his opinions: his was not a voice in the wilderness; he was speaking for the man on the Clapham omnibus
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's best friend

An affectionate or approving way of referring to dogs: a collection of photographs of man’s best friend
More 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 who is more popular and at ease with other men than with women: he looks offended when I tell him he is perceived as a man’s man
More 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

Pronunciation: /ˌman tə ˈman/
1In a direct and frank way between two men: he was able to talk man to man with the delegates
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 soccer or other sport in which each player is responsible for marking one opponent: the best man-to-man marker in the game
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 (grey) suits

Powerful men within an organization who exercise their authority anonymously: the prime minister was removed from Ten Downing Street by men in grey suits
More example sentences
  • Some of the party's most senior figures - the so-called men in grey suits - will this week canvass support among parliamentary colleagues and grass-roots activists.
  • It was, and is his strongly held belief that artists should be allowed to develop their music organically with as little interference as possible from the men in suits.
  • It's one of the quirks of management - victory last year doesn't mean victory this year, and there's no such thing as loyalty from overweight men in suits.

men in white coats

see white coat.
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.

my (or my good or my dear) man

British dated A patronizing form of address to a man: come off it, my man, who d’you think you’re talking to?
More example sentences
  • Now see here, my good man, if we send these fellows back, will you promise not to be beastly to them?
  • I'm afraid, my dear man, you are no longer needed.
  • Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies.

separate (or sort out) the men from the boys

informal Show or prove which people in a group are truly competent, brave, or mature: this match will separate the men from the boys
More 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 all took 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.
with no exceptions, without exception, 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

Line breaks: man

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