No comment from leaders as dictionary ventures into the political spotlight

The quiet and usually obscure world of dictionary publishing was thrust into the political spotlight yesterday when it was revealed The Macquarie Dictionary was changing its definition of misogyny.

Following from Prime Minister Julia Gillard's fiery attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last week, in which she accused him of ''misogyny'', the dictionary decided to broaden the term from ''hatred of women'' to include ''entrenched prejudices against women''.

The change will be included in its next online upload in the new year.

Macquarie Dictionary publisher Susan Butler said that after the ensuing debate about ''misogyny'' and its meaning last week, the dictionary looked into the word's history.

Its usage started to change in American English in the 1980s, before migrating to Australian English.

''In a sense we're a bit behind the times,'' Ms Butler said, noting the Oxford online dictionary had broadened its definition in 2002.


But while neither Ms Gillard nor Mr Abbott wanted to buy into the new-look misogyny - both batted away questions yesterday - the change still sparked consternation, with some people wondering why the dictionary had apparently followed Ms Gillard's lead.

Tweeter Chris Basten asked: ''Is the Macquarie dictionary edited by George Orwell? For the benefit of Big Sister?''

Nationals MPs were also unhappy.

''How wonderfully convenient, Macquarie Dictionary changes definition 'misogyny' to suit PM Gillard's misuse of term,'' Senator Barnaby Joyce posted on Twitter.