chairman, chairwoman, chairperson, chair
The term chairman, which combines connotations of power with grammatical gender bias, has been a keyword in feminist sensitivities about language. Chairwoman dates from the 17c, but (as the OED notes) it was hardly a recognized name until the 19c, and even then it did not solve the problem of how to refer neutrally to a chairman/chairwoman when the gender was unknown or irrelevant. Two gender-neutral alternatives emerged in the 20c: chairperson and chair, both first attested in the 1970s, although chair was already in use to mean ‘the authority invested in a chairman’:

• I was recently challenged for using ‘chairman’ to describe my position. My accuser went on to assert that I was being insensitive to the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission by not using ‘chairwoman’, ‘chairperson’, or ‘chair’. —Ann Scully, Times, 1988.

Chair seems to be more popular than chairperson, partly because it seems less contrived and partly because it is more malleable in meaning, whereas chairperson requires the impossibly cumbersome derivative chairpersonship. Although it could once be claimed that chairperson tended to be used as an alternative for chairwoman rather than for chairman or chairwoman (that is to say, that a chairperson was usually a woman) this is increasingly less the case as usage evens out. See also -person.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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  • chairperson — n. the officer who presides at the meetings of an organization; same as {chair[3]} or {chairman[1]}, but used to achieve a sex neutral register. Syn: president, chairman, chairwoman, chair. [WordNet 1.5 +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chairperson — index chief Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • chairperson — (n.) 1971, from CHAIR (Cf. chair) (n.) + PERSON (Cf. person) …   Etymology dictionary

  • chairperson — [n] person in charge of proceedings administrator, captain, chair, director, introducer, leader, moderator, monitor, president, presider, principal, prolocutor, speaker, spokesperson, symposiarch; concepts 348,376 …   New thesaurus

  • chairperson — ► NOUN ▪ a chairman or chairwoman …   English terms dictionary

  • chairperson — [cher′pʉr΄sən] n. CHAIRMAN (n. 1): used to avoid the masculine implication of chairman …   English World dictionary

  • chairperson — chairpersonship, n. /chair perr seuhn/, n. 1. a person who presides over a meeting, committee, board, etc. 2. the administrative head of a department in a high school, college, or university. [1970 75; CHAIR(MAN) + PERSON] Usage. CHAIRPERSON has …   Universalium

  • Chairperson — Der Begriff Chairperson wird verwendet: allgemein als emanzipierte Form des Begriffs Chairman im Zusammenhang mit der Themenzentrierten Interaktion von Ruth Cohn, siehe Chairperson (TZI) Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unte …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • chairperson — [[t]tʃe͟ə(r)pɜː(r)s(ə)n[/t]] chairpersons N COUNT The chairperson of a meeting, committee, or organization is the person in charge of it. She s the chairperson of the safety committee …   English dictionary

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