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The medial labial consonants f and m in wīfmann coalesced into the modern form "woman", while the initial element, which meant "female", underwent semantic narrowing to the sense of a married woman ("wife").It is a popular misconception that the term "woman" is etymologically connected to "womb".
Later at puberty, estrogen feminizes a young woman, giving her adult sexual characteristics.
The word girl originally meant "young person of either sex" in English; The term girl is sometimes used colloquially to refer to a young or unmarried woman; however, during the early 1970s feminists challenged such use because the use of the word to refer to a fully grown woman may cause offence.
In particular, previously common terms such as office girl are no longer widely used.
In Old English, wīfmann meant "female human", whereas wēr meant "male human".
Mann or monn had a gender-neutral meaning of "human", corresponding to Modern English "person" or "someone"; however, subsequent to the Norman Conquest, man began to be used more in reference to "male human", and by the late 13th century had begun to eclipse usage of the older term wēr.
As in cases without two sexes, such as species that reproduce asexually, the gender-neutral appearance is closer to female than to male.
A fetus usually develops into a male if it is exposed to a significant amount of testosterone (typically because the fetus has a Y chromosome from the father).
Conversely, in certain cultures which link family honor with female virginity, the word girl is still used to refer to a never-married woman; in this sense it is used in a fashion roughly analogous to the obsolete English maid or maiden.
Referring to an unmarried female human as a woman may, in such a culture, imply that she is sexually experienced, which would be an insult to her family.
The Venus symbol also represented femininity, and in ancient alchemy stood for copper.
Alchemists constructed the symbol from a circle (representing spirit) above an equilateral cross (representing matter).
Whether or not a child is considered female does not always determine whether or not the child later will identify themselves that way (see gender identity).