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The popular use of gender simply as an alternative to sex (as a biological category) is also widespread, although attempts are still made to preserve the distinction.
The American Heritage Dictionary (2000) uses the following two sentences to illustrate the difference, noting that the distinction "is useful in principle, but it is by no means widely observed, and considerable variation in usage occurs at all levels." In the last two decades of the 20th century, the use of gender in academia has increased greatly, outnumbering uses of sex in the social sciences.
Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role in 1955.
Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories.
Other sciences, such as sexology and neuroscience, are also interested in the subject.
While the social sciences sometimes approach gender as a social construct, and gender studies particularly do, research in the natural sciences investigates whether biological differences in males and females influence the development of gender in humans; both inform debate about how far biological differences influence the formation of gender identity.
Matters pertaining to this theoretical process of social construction were labelled matters of gender.
The modern English word gender comes from the Middle English gender (also gendere, gendir gendyr, gendre), a loanword from Anglo-Norman and Middle French gendre. The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED1, Volume 4, 1900) notes the original meaning of gender as "kind" had already become obsolete.
The word was still widely attested, however, in the specific sense of grammatical gender (the assignment of nouns to categories such as masculine, feminine and neuter).
The term woman has historically been used interchangeably with reference to the female body, though more recently this usage has been viewed as controversial by some feminists.
There are qualitative analyses that explore and present the representations of gender; however, feminists challenge these dominant ideologies concerning gender roles and biological sex.In the English literature, there is also a trichotomy between biological sex, psychological gender, and social gender role.