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If I call a man pussy, that would mean that he is cowardly or timid. Could the word "pussy" be used for a woman too to indicate that she is cowardly?

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    See this usage chart, showing how rare She's a pussy is compared to He's a pussy. Bottom line is you can use the slang term in this way - but most people don't, so unless you have a very good reason to buck the trend you probably shouldn't. Nov 16, 2022 at 15:40
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    Given the misogynist way men can used of 'pussy' in connection with women, the word is far too likely to be misunderstood (or, even worse, understood). Nov 16, 2022 at 16:20
  • @MichaelHarvey: See this chart, which for reasons of decency I won't explicitly repeat here (NSFW). Unlike pussy, there's no significant tendency to avoid using its synonym in reference to the relevant literal gender. (So I kinda doubt "scope for being misunderstood" is a factor here! :) Nov 16, 2022 at 16:26
  • @FumbleFingers interesting. When I was a (London, 1960s) boy, we used the C-word for a particular kind of spiteful, nasty, boy or man. Of course it also meant the female pudenda, but if anyone used it about a girl or woman, I think it would have been perceived as an error, or one might have assumed they had read Last Exit to Brooklyn. Nov 16, 2022 at 16:30
  • @MichaelHarvey: I was actually quite surprised by the chart. When I saw your comment, my first thought was that I didn't see "misunderstanding" as a relevant factor, but I did expect the c-word to be applied less to women than to men. Probably because I've had a lifetime of being warned against / ticked off for using it in the presence of women even if it's not directed towards a woman. So I only really posted my last comment because it showed something I hadn't expected to find. Nov 16, 2022 at 16:39

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Yes, but ...

The word "pussy" is also a vulgar slang word for a woman's genital area. So saying, "She is a pussy" could be interpreted as a crude remark about her sexuality.

So short answer: Just don't. If you want to say that a woman is cowardly, you can say, "She is cowardly". Or if you want to be informal, say "She is a chicken" or "She is a wimp".

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    Frankly, the word is crude even when applied to men. I wouldn't advise using it at all.
    – MJ713
    Nov 16, 2022 at 19:54
  • @MJ713 I'm not sure when the word is applied to men if the intent is to say "he has the courage of a baby cat", i.e. very little, or "he has the courage of a girl" using a crude word for girl. The former would be rude and insulting but of course that's the intent. The latter would be rude and insulting AND CRUDE. I suppose one could investigate the historical roots to see which is the actual origin, but now that you mention it, yeah, probably better to just avoid using it.
    – Jay
    Nov 16, 2022 at 20:43
  • Honestly, I didn't even consider a connection to the "cat" meaning. Found a different post addressing the etymology of the insult, and it seems like it wasn't related to genitals originally (english.stackexchange.com/questions/100990/…), but I feel like the cruder association has "overwritten" the older one in modern usage. I don't know if there's a technical term for that.
    – MJ713
    Nov 16, 2022 at 20:54
  • @MJ713 Yeah, that's what I meant by my last sentence. Regardless of the actual origins, someone hearing the word today might think of the crude sexual meaning. There are plenty of other words one can use that don't have that connotation -- like "chicken" or "wimp" or simply "coward" -- so it makes sense to just avoid it. There are times when I'd say, I'm not going to let the most easily offended person in the world dictate what words I use, but this isn't one of them. :-)
    – Jay
    Nov 18, 2022 at 0:19
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I've upvoted the existing answer which highlights the important point that the word has another vulgar meaning in connection with women, and it would not be a good idea to use it for that reason alone.

My pervading thought is that the word is strongly associated with so-called 'toxic masculinity'. It is something that certain types of men say to each other to suggest they lack masculinity, but this is rooted in stereotypes of what a man should be. Although this is in itself a generalisation, men tend not say these sorts of things about women, nor do women say them about each other, because they do not measure women by such male stereotypes.

If you're not a native English speaker I would imagine that you have heard expressions like "pussy" and "chicken" from English-language movies, books or TV. It should be noted that this kind of language has quickly become outdated, and even when it has been used in media from the last few decades it was usually associated with undesirable characters such as school bullies.

It may be that you're not asking whether it is socially acceptable for you to use this term - perhaps you're writing dialogue for an undesirable character that would say something derogatory. Of course, common slurs against women exist. I'm certainly not going to give any examples! But just as 'pussy' attacks a man's masculinity, slurs against women tend to attack their femininity or the values that women hold as important.

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