We use the word 'man' in such context quite commonly.

[Added note: To avoid ambiguity] In all these cases, I'm talking to a man. He's right there, in front of me.

"Man, it's not that easy!"
"Look man, don't mess with me."
"Ah, bang on, man!"

What if I'm talking to a woman? Can I still use 'man' as 'guys' (which is now considered as an epicene term)? I can call girls 'guys' informally.

  • 7
    To exclaim "Man, it's not that easy!" is not really a form of address. But "Look man, don't mess with me." is a form of address. Its counterpart (in the same register) is "Look, lady, don't mess with me."
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 12:19
  • 1
    I've heard dude used this way to refer to women. Oddly, it is common to address a group of women as guys but I don't think I've heard the singular guy used to refer to a woman.
    – Era
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 19:50

3 Answers 3


"Man" here is not an address to the person you are speaking to, but an exclamation, like "wow" or "oh no". Taken literally, it makes little sense -- who is this "man" that we are referring to? But interjections rarely make literal sense. People often use vulgar words in exactly the same role, like "Oh [fecal matter], that wasn't easy!" Or, "Oh [sexual act], that wasn't easy!" Those make little sense if you try to interpret them literally either.

  • No, in the first expression, I'm warning my friend. It's a conversation and I'm not talking to myself.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 13:27
  • 1
    @Maulik: Obviously intonation would affect interpretation of your intended sense for Man in example #1. But in the absence of that native speakers would tend to assume an "exclamation", because it doesn't really work as an address to a female. The same situation arises with Brother (not so common as an exclamation today, particularly in the shortened form Bro, which imho would almost never be used as a female term of address). Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 13:38
  • In the context of "Man, it's not that easy!", is "Man" a less profane substitute for "God" or "Goddamn" or "Damnit"? If so, "Man" is being used in the sense of "Mankind" or "Jesus was the Son of Man".
    – Jasper
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 16:10
  • 1
    @Jasper I just did some searching for the origins of the interjection and found nothing conclusive. Short answer: I don't think anyone knows. We have similar interjections "brother" and "boy", as in, "Oh man is it hot today", "Oh brother is it hot today", and "Oh boy is it hot today" being pretty much interchangeable. It's a stretch to theorize that "man" is short for "son of man"; I think it's even more of a stretch to suppose that "boy" is derived from any reference to God or Jesus. One could speculate endlessly, of course.
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 19:33
  • 1
    @Jasper Ah, I misunderstood what you were trying to say. I suppose that when people are taking an oath, some who do not believe in God or who believe it inappropriate to invoke God, instead of saying, "I swear to God ...", will say, "I swear by my honor ...", etc. So by that reasoning someone might say that instead of shouting "Oh God, this is horrible", he will shout "Oh Man, this is horrible." An interesting theory, I think. I have zero evidence to confirm or refute it.
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 19:50

For informal use, it's becoming more common. However, it isn't practiced or commonplace in formal or most professional settings.

Man isn't always gender-specific. Male and female are, and a female man is more frequently identified as a woman. I've also heard females addressed as dude among the younger generation, even though that word is traditionally masculine.

Even in the Bible, man isn't specifically masculine. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Genesis 1:27, King James Version.


I think you should use the same sentences with a "woman" because "man" here is part of this common expression. Using "woman" make no sense!

The women themselves get what you mean because they are aware of this common expression!

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