Gillard outburst redefines 'misogyny' - literally

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's use of the word "misogyny" in attacking Tony Abbott has prompted a recasting of its meaning in the national dictionary.

The prime minister's speech last week in which she said she would not be lectured about sexism or misogyny by the opposition leader catapulted the word into public debate.

Ms Gillard was accused of misusing the word as Mr Abbott's supporters rallied to his defence to say he was no hater of women.

But word watchers say it's likely the prime minister's use of misogyny was her picking up on a common new usage of the word.

The editors of the Macquarie Dictionary now plan to broaden its definition from strictly meaning a hatred of women to also denote an entrenched prejudice against women.

Dictionary editor Sue Butler said the word's meaning had changed over the past 20 to 30 years but its use in recent political debate had highlighted a need for a dictionary redefinition.

"It became highly visible and we realised that it was perhaps something we should have noticed before," she told AAP.

She said the change in the meaning of misogyny began in feminist debate in the United States in the 1980s, where there had been a similar debate over its definition.

Hillary Clinton notably complained of misogyny during her primary campaign against Barack Obama in 2008.

Ms Butler said it was agreed in the US that 'misogyny' had moved from a pathological hatred of women to a prejudice against women and even as much as a simple dislike of women.

"It's filtered through to general conversation in Australian English and it's one that we now need to record in the dictionary."

Ms Butler said she believed Ms Gillard had used the term in parliament in its current meaning of someone always prejudiced against women.

When Mr Abbott was asked on Wednesday about the planned change to the meaning of misogyny, he disagreed that it validated the attack on him by the prime minister and her ministers.

"I'm just going to leave the cheap personal politics to the Labor Party," he said.

But Nationals Senator Fiona Nash took issue with the planned change in dictionary meaning.

"It would seem more logical for the prime minister to refine her vocabulary than for the Macquarie Dictionary to keep changing its definitions every time a politician mangles the English language."

Ms Butler, however, said Senator Nash was missing the point.

"It's not a one-off from our prime minister, it's simply our prime minister picking up on a usage that's quite common."

The new meaning will be listed as a second definition of the word in the annual online update of the dictionary available from January and in the next print edition due out in late 2013.

- AAP

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