"It was the same mirror I'd gazed into as a child, then as a girl, then as a youth, half woman, half girl."

Educated by Tara Westover

  • What does "half woman" mean? (For example: A girl that has boyfriend?)

  • What does "half girl" mean?

Would you please explain it to me?


  • The speaker is about 25. She has a boyfriend but she is not married.

  • There is another text that contains the same phrase:

"The old man went back to his room and, sinking into his chair, covered his eyes with his hands and sat as if lost in thought—and memories. And, strangely enough, it was not of the young man he was thinking, but of a very beautiful woman, half woman, half girl, with black hair and brilliant eyes, with the blood of the South mantling in her cheeks, with the fire of the South, passionate, impetuous, uncontrollable, in eyes and cheek; a woman of fire and strong will, hard to understand, impossible to control; a woman to make or wreck a man's life. The woman whose vision rose before the old man, who sat, a bowed and desolate figure, in his chair, had wrecked his."

The Woman's Way (Esprios Classics) By Charles Garvice

  • 3
    Please consider making fewer, more significant edits. Every time you make a minor edit, it bumps your question to the top of the site. We'd like to do this a little bit less often, if possible.
    – user230
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:24

4 Answers 4


The text has nothing to do with whether she has a spouse or boyfriend. She's referring to back to a past time when she was a youth, which is a noun meaning "a young person between adolescence and maturity."

The phrase "half woman, half girl" is a poetic way of saying that as a youth, she was not yet an adult, but not a child either. There were probably some ways in which she felt similar to an adult and other ways she felt similar to a child.

  • 15
    @jamesqf Historically yes, but not so much in modern English. Google define and M-W both have examples using youth with females (possibly driven by the lack of a matching word to describe females at that age?). Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 18:36
  • 78
    I have never understood any gender to be implied by “youth.” I literally didn’t even know that was a thing. I grew up in the north-east United States.
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 20:34
  • 13
    @MichaelRichardson "Half-grown" works, yes ; but "half [a], half [b]" is a common rhetorical pattern that most native speakers would be familiar with. Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 21:20
  • 9
    @thb While I definitely won't tell jamesqf he is wrong about his idio/dialect, I suspect the votes are 49 - 1 because many other native speakers disagree with him (as do I), and on an ELL site, it's important to let learners know that "youth" is definitely not males-only in many (most?) modern dialects of English. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 17:09
  • 7
    @user3067860 - Certainly in modern compound nouns, it seems to be always gender neutral: youth orchestras, youth centers, and church youth groups are all mixed-gender. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 19:23

"Half woman" and "half girl" are not idioms or anything. She's trying to evoke a more literal meaning, using this "half X, half Y" construction similarly to how you could describe a mule as "half horse, half donkey" or a mermaid as "half woman, half fish". "Half woman, half girl" is one connected statement in which the narrator is describing herself as being somewhere between womanhood and girlhood but not quite fitting either (a feeling familiar to youth).

  • Not really like a mermaid, which has a dividing line between the fish part and the woman part, but yes, like a mule. Or perhaps, as you sometimes see written about emotions: e.g. "half excited, half scared". Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 10:03
  • 3
    @TobySpeight The mermaid example was simply another example of how "half X, half Y" is used to indicate something that is two different things in equal measure, at it's used whether there is a dividing line or not. But yes.
    – Sparksbet
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 11:54

Briefly, "half girl, half woman" practically equals Britney Spears' "not a girl, not yet a woman" which means that she has almost grown out of her childhood and she is no more a girl, but she hasn't yet become a woman. She is somewhere between still having something from a girl and already having something from a woman. Both the former and the latter can be perceived in many ways.


I do not think the expression implies that she is half one, half the other.

Instead it is a poetic device to describe someone at the cusp of adulthood, with the simultaneous qualities of both a woman and a girl. Someone who is physically beyond adolescence but without the wisdom and experiences that come with full adulthood. The awkward age girls, especially, face when they find themselves, still teens emotionally, trapped in an adult body.

The closest use of a similar metaphor that came to my mind was Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon," re-popularized in the Tarantino film Pulp Fiction.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .