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For UK/US users is not a tag most would think to look for when refering to spay, neuter, castration, etc. In fact "desexing" is a term that I (a vet) have never heard used by any veterinary professional. It does seem that it is primarily an Australian term, but I have not practiced there so it might be commonly used by Australian vets.

Animals are not really "de-sexed" - they still have some sexual organs, they are still male and female. I have been told I take things too literally sometimes, but this particular term does not describe the procedure very accurately.

Currently has two synonyms - and .

This is a proposal to make the primary tag, and a synonym of that. I think neutering is a far more universally-used term than desexing, and can be applied to both males and females.

On searching, this has come up years ago, but I think warrants a fresh look:

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    I agree with this, I've only ever seen the term de-sexing online - never hear it in person. – Rebecca RVT Jul 23 '18 at 0:00
  • For those who may not be aware both 'Harry V' and 'Rebecca RVT' are Veterinary professionals. – James Jenkins Jul 23 '18 at 12:40
  • Agreed. De-sexing also sounds eye-wateringly painful. – Snow Jul 23 '18 at 14:09
  • Would you plan to make spay become a synonym of neutering as well? In the Meta's you linked to it sounded like they had some community support. – Henders Jul 23 '18 at 15:43
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    @Henders Yes, that is what I had in mind. – Harry V. Jul 24 '18 at 5:27
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The master tag is now , with the synonyms and .

You will note the tags on the questions prior to this synonym reversal are still tagged with , however on search results the will show up.

Another question should be, if we need to retag them.

Also, our tag wikis are now empty.

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I was redirected here from this meta post.

I can understand the need to come up with a term other than desexing, if it is inappropriate; but I can't understand the reasoning behind making neuter a synonym of spay (or vice versa).

Despite lexicographical evidence, I have always known neuter to be a specifically male term and spay to be a specifically female term. Where I live, I've never heard anybody refer to spaying a male animal or neutering a female animal.

It would be kind of like saying that man is a synonym of woman (or vice versa) rather than saying that each is a synonym of human.

I would suggest picking something like sterilization as a better word for desexing. And then making both neuter and spay synonyms of that instead.

But whatever word you pick as an "umbrella" term, I don't think that either neuter or spay should be synonymous with the other.


Update: Spurred by comments, it appears that my "common knowledge" of the two words has been incorrect.

I was raised to specifically associate one gender with each word. (And this was reinforced by vets I've dealt with here in Canada.) But the dictionary has something different to say.

Merriam-Webster specifically states that spay is associated with female animals:

: to remove the ovaries and uterus of (a female animal)

However, its definition of neuter "redirects" to castrate, which in turn refers to both sexes:

2 a : to deprive of the testes : GELD
b : to deprive of the ovaries (see OVARY 1) : SPAY

(More interestingly, I've never heard of the word castrate applied to females before either.)

Given this, it does indeed seem to make sense that neuter should be the main word, and spay a synonym of it.


But it still sounds "off" to me—perhaps the words have different regional uses.

Here is some copy from the website of Parkland Veterinary Clinic:

Specifically, spaying is the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries and, on the other hand, neutering is the surgical removal of your pets’ testicles.

This tells me that even if usage has changed over the past forty years or so (I'm not sure if it actually has), some people still do make this distinction between the different words.

  • welcome to our site :) I take it you're an English language expert? high rep in such a short time on English.se – Yvette Colomb Jul 29 '18 at 0:28
  • @YvetteColomb I don't know if I'd call myself an "expert," but I'm an editor who like working with words. ;) – Jason Bassford Jul 29 '18 at 0:37
  • well if you have pets, feel free to ask or answer questions and post pics in our chat room chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/10964/the-litter-box – Yvette Colomb Jul 29 '18 at 0:51
  • This is incorrect. You dig a garden with a spade. An animal is spayed (or speyed to some). Neutering (Wikipedia) can refer to both male and female animals. – Harry V. Jul 29 '18 at 0:51
  • @HarryV. You are quite correct. (And I am embarrassed about not catching my unconscious typo.) I have updated my answer. – Jason Bassford Jul 29 '18 at 1:18
  • @JamesJenkins I have made some further edits to smooth out this inconsistency. – Jason Bassford Jul 31 '18 at 14:00

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