Finnish for busy people

Palomies Talonmies Sähkömies – Gender-Neutral Names

The word sukupuoli means “gender, sex”. From this word, you get the word sukupuolineutraalinen “gender neutral”. In this article, I want to look into Finnish gendered words and how gender-neutrality has affected them. I’m specifically listing Finnish gender-neutral names for words ending in -mies.

I became interested in this topic through several news articles of companies promising to use more gender-neutral names. The website Työmarkkinatori, for example, removed some compound words ending in “mies” from their search engine, such as the word lehtimies. In 2017 Aamulehti also announced that it would start favoring gender-neutral names. They mentioned the removal of the words puhemies, lautamies, luottamusmies and palomies.

Finnish Gender-Neutral Names – Strategies

Finnish has a fairly large selection of compound words that contain the word -mies. Many of these are the names of predominantly male professions or positions, such as construction workers and soldiers.

When making gendered names gender-neutral, Finnish has a fairly large group of strategies.

  1. Replacing the word mies “man” with henkilö “person”. This is a good strategy which has caught on with some terms (eg. luottamushenkilö), but which sounds awkward with other words.
  2. For many professions, mies “man” has been replaced with työntekijä “worker”. For example, the word varastomies has the gender-neutral alternative varastotyöntekijä.
  3. The suffix -ja can be added to many verbs to refer to a person doing the verb’s action. This method has also been widely applied to words ending in -mies. For example, edusmies is now edustaja and johtomies is johtaja.
  4. Sometimes the compound word remains to be the only term used. This is especially common with positions in the army and in court. These words ending in -mies are official titles, which are used for both men and women, such as varusmies and haastemies.

A big step toward gender-neutrality is made when the title of a degree is changed. You can, for example, no longer get a diploma that states you’re a trained rakennusmies. Instead, there’s a different term, in this case talonrakentaja. This change goes a long way towards changing the language people use. However, in spoken language, rakennusmies is still the main term people use for a construction worker.

What happens to the compound word ending in –mies?

When the gender-neutral term starts to gain popularity, the status of the compound word ending in -mies can change.

  1. It’s possible for the word ending in -mies to be largely abandoned in favor of the gender-neutral alternative, both in spoken and written Finnish.
  2. It’s also possible for the word ending in -mies to live on in spoken language only, while the gender-neutral equivalent is used in official language.
  3. The word ending in -mies can also stay in use as a way to refer to a male person. In some cases, a female equivalent also comes into use. That’s how we get tiedenainen “female scientist” and bisnesnainen “businesswoman”. Often, the compound word ending in -nainen is not fully accepted into the Finnish language and only occasionally used.
  4. Sometimes the fact that a word ends in -mies is just overlooked: the word stays in use as the only official term and is used for both men and women. This is the case, for example, for puhemies “chairman, speaker”.

List of Compound Words Ending in –mies

In the table below, you can find an overview of both gendered and gender-neutral names, along with the English equivalent. Words within quotation marks in the gender-neutral column are spoken language words.

Below this table, you can read more about the usage of each of the terms. I strongly recommend that you read through those as well.

Gendered name Gender-neutral name English
ajomies kuljettaja, ajuri, riistanajaja coachman, driver, beater
ammattimies ammattilainen tradesman, craftsman, professional
apumies apulainen, apuri, avustaja helper, hand, assistant
asiamies valtuutettu, edustaja ombudsman; delegate; agent; attorney
edusmies edustaja representative, spokesman
erikoismies erikoisosaaja, asiantuntija specialist
erämies eränkävijä, metsästäjä outdoorsman, ranger, huntsman
esimies päällikkö, lähijohtaja, “pomo” foreman, boss, superior
huippumies huipputekijä, huippupelaaja top man, top guy
huoltomies kiinteistönhoitaja serviceman, janitor
jarrumies jarruttaja person who pulls the brakes
johtomies johtohenkilö, johtaja leading man, front man
junamies ratatyöntekijä rail yard worker
järjestysmies järjestyksenvalvoja bouncer
kaivosmies kaivostyöntekijä, kaisvostyöläinen miner
kalamies kalastaja, kalastuksen harrastaja fisherman, fisher
kameramies elokuvaaja, televisiokuvaaja cameraman, cinematographer
katsastusmies katsastaja vehicle inspector
kellomies ajanottaja timekeeper
kirvesmies talonrakentaja, “timpuri” carpenter
lakimies juristi attorney
lehtimies toimittaja, journalisti, reportteri newsman, journalist
liikemies bisneshenkilö, yrittäjä businessman, businessperson
luottamusmies luottamushenkilö union representative
luottomies luottohenkilö trusted supporter
mainosmies mainostaja, mainosgraafikko ad-man, advertiser
matkamies matkalainen, kulkija journeyer, wayfarer, traveler
merimies merenkulkija, merenkävijä sea man, sailor
merkkimies merkkihenkilö notable person, person of distinction
metallimies metallityöntekijä metal industry worker
metsämies metsästäjä huntsman, hunter
mittamies maanmittaaja, maanmittari land surveyor
murhamies murhaaja murderer
murtomies murtautuja burglar
muuttomies muuttotyöntekijä mover
myyntimies kauppaedustaja salesman, sales representative
mäkimies mäkihyppääjä ski jumper
ovimies ovenvartija, “portsari” doorman, ticket taker, bouncer
palomies pelastaja, palopelastaja fireman, firefighter
pillimies erotuomari whistleblower, referee
poliisimies poliisi policeman, police officer
poppamies tietäjä, kansanparantaja medicine man, witch doctor
poromies poronhoitaja, poronomistaja reindeer herder, reindeer owner
postimies postinkantaja, postinjakaja postman, mailman, mail carrier
putkimies putkiasentaja, LVI-asentaja plumber, HVAC-installer
pyssymies aseistautunut henkilö, ampuja gunman
päämies johtaja, päällikkö head, chieftain
rajavartiomies rajavartija border guard
rakennusmies rakennustyöntekijä construction worker
rintamamies rintamasotilas battlefront soldier
satamamies satamatyöläinen, satamatyöntekijä dockworker
sekatyömies sekatyöläinen, sekatyöntekijä odd-job man, unskilled laborer
sähkömies sähköasentaja, “sähkäri” electrician
taksimies taksinkuljettaja, “taksikuski” taxi driver
talonmies talonhoitaja, “talkkari” janitor, caretaker
tiedemies tieteilijä, tieteenharjoittaja scientist
tullimies tullitarkastaja tollman, customs officer
tullivirkamies tullivirkailija, tullitarkastaja customs official
turvamies vartija, henkivartija security man, guard, bodyguard
työmies työläinen workman, laborer
valtionpäämies valtionjohtaja, valtiojohtaja head of state
varamies varahenkilö reserve player, substitute
varastomies varastotyöntekijä warehouse worker
vasaramies meklari auctioneer
veturimies veturinkuljettaja train operator, engine driver
virkamies viranhaltija civil servant, public officer, official

Comparison of Gendered and Gender-neutral Names

In this section, you can find a comparison regarding the usage of words ending in –mies and gender-neutral names. It’s meant to give you a more detailed view on how these terms compare to one another.

Ajomies: literally “driving man”

  • Ajomies (1): This term doesn’t mean just any type of driver: it has the specific meaning of a driver who is employed by someone else to drive. In current days, ajomies is used, for example, to specify that a taxi driver has been employed to drive a taxi owned by someone else.
  • Kuljettaja: We can use the gender-neutral word kuljettaja instead of ajomies when it isn’t important to stress that the driver is being employed by someone else. This is the most common term for a driver.
  • Ajomies (2): Historically, an ajomies meant someone driving a vehicle with horses in order to drop off things such as wood. We could replace this word with (hevosten) ajuri.
  • Ajomies (3): When hunting, ajomies can be used to refer to the person who herds game towards hunters. In English, you call this a beater. A gender-neutral term for this is riistanajaja.

Ammattimies: literally “trade/profession man”

  • Ammattimies: This word has slowly lost ground as the main term for “professional”. It’s now more often used to express an actual male worker.
  • Ammattilainen: This is the gender-neutral, commonly used term used for a skilled worker or a professional.
  • Ammattihenkilö: This word is used in official contexts, for example when talking about registered health care workers, laillistettu ammattihenkilö.

Apumies: literally “help man”

  • Apumies: This word is still in frequent use and appears in job advertisements for workers who do all kinds of odd jobs. It doesn’t automatically mean a male odd-job man, but in practice it is used to refer to men.
  • Rakennusapumies: This term translates as “building helper” and is used in job advertisements for construction workers. You can also find the gender-neutral term rakennusapulainen.
  • Autonapumies: This term means “car helper” and is used to refer to the second man in a transportation vehicle who helps with loading and unloading. I’m not sure if there is a gender-neutral term for this.
  • Apulainen: This is an everyday word used to refer to helpers of any kind.
  • Apuri: Another everyday term for a helper.
  • Avustaja: This term is generally used for assistants in a professional setting, such as hoiva-avustaja “care assistant” and koulunkäyntiavustaja “school attendance assistant”.

Asiamies: literally “matter man”

  • Asiamies (1): In court, this has long been the official term for the ombudsman or public advocate. Now, it has been largely replaced by edustaja. However, in compound words asiamies is still common (eg. oikeusasiamies, kuluttaja-asiamies).
  • Asiamies (2): This term is also used in less specific circumstances to refer to anyone who acts for or in place of someone in official settings.
  • Valtuutettu: This term is the Finnish equivalent of “representative” in formal settings.

Edusmies: literally “represent man”

  • Edusmies: This is a dated term, which has been almost fully replaced for edustaja.
  • Edustaja: This gender-neutral umbrella term is used for representatives of various types.

Erikoismies: literally “special man”

  • Erikoismies: This word is now only used for men who are specialists as something. The word erikoisnainen and erikoishenkilö don’t appear in the dictionary but are used occasionally.
  • Asiantuntija: This word is the most commonly used term for a specialist, but generally means expertise in a field of knowledge.
  • Erikoisosaaja: This is a good gender-neutral term, which focuses more on expertise at doing something, often sports.

Erämies: literally “wilderness man”

  • Erämies: This word is still used to specifically refer to men who spend time in uninhabited forests. Often they hunt and fish there.
  • Eränkävijä: This word literally means “wilderness visitor” and is a good gender-neutral alternative for erämies. Hunting and fishing are generally still automatically associated activities.
  • Metsästäjä: This word specifically means “hunter”. The focus of this word is on the activity itself, not on the location it takes place in like erämies.

Esimies: literally “fore man”

  • Esimies: This word can be used both for men and women without sounding out of place. However, there are several other frequently used terms, such as päällikkö and lähijohtaja. The word pomo is also used in spoken Finnish.
  • Esihenkilö: This gender-neutral term hasn’t caught on as well as päällikkö and johtaja, but Kielikello claims it’s on the rise.
  • Esinainen: Just like esihenkilö, this word is much less popular than alternative terms such as johtaja.
  • Johtaja: This is the most common gender-neutral term to refer to your superior.

Huippumies: literally “top man”

  • Huippumies: This word refers to men who are at the top of their field. This term is often used for sportsmen but isn’t limited to it.
  • Huippu-urheilija: This is a great gender-neutral word for “top athlete”.
  • Huippupelaaja: This commonly used gender-neutral term means “star player”.
  • Huipputekijä: This gender-neutral term has a more general meaning: it refers to anyone who’s at the top of their field. It literally translates as “top doer” or “top maker”.

Huoltomies: literally “service man”

  • Huoltomies: This is a commonly used term for someone in charge of maintenance and small repairs. It commonly means the person in an apartment complex who comes and does small repairs when needed.
  • Kiinteistönhoitaja: This is the official term for the profession, ie. the professional title you receive after completing vocational training.

Jarrumies: literally “brake man”

  • Jarrumies (1): Historically, this word was used for railroad employees who were responsible for trains’ brakes and such. There is no gender-neutral term for this meaning of the word.
  • Jarrumies (2): This term is used in sports for the person who’s in charge of braking the bobsleigh.
  • Jarruttaja: This gender-neutral term can be used in multiple contexts. It can mean the person braking while bobsleighing, but also the person in charge of braking roller coasters. This word is also used sometimes for someone who pulls the brake on plans and thus slows down their realization.

Johtomies: literally “leading man”

  • Johtomies: A person who leads a group of people, ie. who is the leading force of a group. Other gendered words that work as synonyms are nokkamies and napamies.
  • Johtohenkilö: This is a good gender-neutral term.
  • Johtaja: This very commonly used word means “boss, leader”. However, this word just tells us the person is in charge. In some cases it can be more apt to use johtomies because it stresses that the person is the driving force rather than just their leadership.

Junamies: literally “train man”

  • Junamies: This word is used to refer to railway yard workers who do a variety of jobs such as coupling wagons. Currently, it’s only used in colloquial language.
  • Ratatyöntekijä: This gender-neutral term which means “railway worker” is a good synonym of junamies. The longer word ratapihatyöntekijä “railway yard worker” is also used. Both of these terms pop up in job advertisements.

Järjestysmies: literally “orderliness man”

  • Järjestysmies: It’s possible to still hear this term, but it’s mostly been replaced by järjestyksenvalvoja. In English, you can translate this job position as “bouncer” or “security guard”.
  • Järjestyksenvalvoja: This term literally means “order overseer” or “order monitor”. It’s the official term used in job advertisements and in course names.

Kaivosmies: literally “mine man”

  • Kaivosmies: This word is still used in spoken language, especially when talking about historic events. This is a predominantly male field of employment.
  • Kaivostyöntekijä: This is a good gender-neutral term for a miner.
  • Kaivostyöläinen: This word also means “miner” but it stresses that the worker is not in a leadership position or an expert. The word työläinen means “laborer”.

Kalamies: literally “fish man”

  • Kalamies: This word is a colloquial term for someone who enjoys fishing as a hobby. It’s the Finnish equivalent of “fisherman”. Kalamies is rare, even in spoken language.
  • Kalastaja: This gender-neutral term means “fisher” and refers to anyone who is fishing. This term is used most of the time.

Kameramies: literally “camera man”

  • Kameramies: This word can refer to both men and women. This term is common in everyday language.
  • Elokuvaaja: If a cameraman is working for the movies, we can call them elokuvaaja or simply kuvaaja.
  • Televisiokuvaaja: This term refers to professionals that record television shows.
  • Kameraoperaattori: This is another gender-neutral term for kameramies. It’s used less than elokuvaaja.

Katsastusmies: literally “inspection man”

  • Katsastusmies: This term is now only used in spoken language.
  • Katsastaja: This is the official gender-neutral term used for an inspector. More often than not this means the official vehicle inspector for the annual obligatory car inspection.

Kellomies: literally “clock man”

  • Kellomies: This is a colloquial term used in everyday language for the person who times, for example, running competitions – the timekeeper.
  • Ajanottaja: This term is more official as well as gender-neutral. It translates directly as “time taker”.

Kirvesmies: literally “ax man”

  • Kirvesmies: This word translates to “carpenter” in English. A kirvesmies usually studies to be a talonrakentaja (housebuilder) and works on construction sites, usually doing all types of wood related jobs.
  • Timpuri: This is an informal, gender-neutral word for kirvesmies.
  • Puuseppä: This word also translates as “carpenter” but is different from kirvesmies. A puuseppä builds wooden furniture or wooden parts of a house, but generally doesn’t work on a building site.

Lakimies: literally “law man”

  • Lakimies: This is a well-established term that can be used for both male and female lawyers.
  • Juristi: A commonly used gender-neutral alternative term for lakimies.
  • Asianajaja: This term is more specific than lakimies because it requires union membership and specific qualifications.

Lehtimies: literally “newspaper man”

  • Lehtimies: This term is going out of style and being replaced by toimittaja. Its most prevalent use seems to be the plural lehtimiehet when meaning a group of reporters at an event. Ammattinetti.fi has removed this term from their database.
  • Toimittaja: This is very well-established professional term. In addition to “journalist”, it also means “supplier”, as in tavarantoimittaja “supplier of goods”.
  • Journalisti: This is another good alternative for lehtimies, though less common than toimittaja for the time being.

Liikemies: literally “business man”

  • Liikemies: This word specifically means men in business. The female equivalent can sometimes be called liikenainen.
  • Bisnesmies: The English loanwords bisnesmies and bisnesnainen are also in use. The gender-neutral term for the latter is bisneshenkilö “businessperson”.
  • Yrittäjä: This word could be seen as a synonym because it means “entrepreneur”. However, it does mean someone with their own business rather than a businessman (or woman).

Luottamusmies: literally “trust man”

  • Luottamusmies: This well-established word has a very specific meaning. It’s used in working life for the position of union representative. It can generally be used both for men and women without sounding strange.
  • Luottamusnainen: This word is also in use alongside luottamusmies in to refer to a female union representation but is used less. It’s common to call a female union representative luottamusmies regardless of –mies.
  • Luottamushenkilö: This gender-neutral term is the official title for the position in the workplace. In addition, this word can mean more widely anyone who is in a position of trust.

Luottomies: literally “trust man”

  • Luottomies: This word refers to a man who is considered trustworthy enough to get a special status and more responsibility. For example, a president can have a trusted man who handles certain tasks and has the president’s full trust.
  • Luottohenkilö: This is the gender-neutral term: “trust person”.

Mainosmies: literally “advertisement man”

  • Mainosmies: This word is the Finnish equivalent of the English “ad-man”. This is a colloquial word which in Finnish refers to male advertising professionals.
  • Mainostaja: This word can refer both to the advertising agency (mainostoimisto) and the individual working for such a company (the advertiser).
  • Mainosgraafikko: This word means “advertising graphic designer”, so it’s more specific than mainostaja.
  • Mainostoimittaja: This word means “copywriter”, ie. the person who writes the text in advertisements.

Matkamies: literally “journey man”

  • Matkamies: This word sounds very poetic; it’s certainly not everyday language. It’s most commonly used in the phrase “väsynyt matkamies” (weary traveler).
  • Matkalainen: This is the gender-neutral term for “traveler”, but be aware: this means someone who travels, but not a tourist. The word matkalainen is more like a wayfarer or journeyer. The word kulkija carries the same meaning.
  • Matkailija: When you are traveling in a country or to another country, you’re generally called a matkailija.
  • Matkustaja: This term is used to refer to people traveling in a vehicle (eg. plane, train).

Merimies: literally “sea man”

  • Merimies: This word is used for both male and female sailors and sea captains. This term is used for professional sailors.
  • Merenkulkija and merenkävijä: These gender-neutral terms can be translated as “seafarer” and “mariner”. Their meaning is less specific: they don’t just mean professional sailors. Rather, they can also refer to regular people who go to sea with a boat.

Merkkimies: literally “mark man”

  • Merkkimies: This word refers to a notable person, person of distinction, who is male.
  • Merkkihenkilö: This is the gender-neutral term.

Metallimies: literally “metal man”

  • Metallimies: This word has slowly become less common. It refers to a person working in the metal industry. It’s a fairly vague term that could cover multiple job positions, such as hitsaaja and koneistaja.
  • Metallityöntekijä: “Metal worker” is the more common term for someone working in the metal industry.

Metsämies: literally “forest man”

  • Metsämies: Despite the direct translation of “forest man”, this term specifically means a hunter: a huntsman.
  • Metsästäjä: This is the gender-neutral term for a hunter.

Mittamies: literally “measure man”

  • Mittamies: This term refers to surveyors, ie. the professionals who measure the distance between and location of structural components and property boundaries. It’s a colloquial word, which doesn’t specify if the surveyor is a technician or an engineer. However, generally it refers to surveyors with a lower education.
  • Maanmittaaja and maanmittari: These terms mean “land surveyor”. They’re gender-neutral synonyms for mittamies.
  • Mittaaja: This gender-neutral term “measurer” can also be used to refer to a surveyor. However, in practice it could refer to any type of person who measures things, not just a surveyor.
  • Mittausinsinööri: This term refers to surveying engineers. These are professionals that might object to the term mittamies.

Murhamies: literally “murder man”

  • Murhamies: This colloquial term is used to refer to male murderers.
  • Murhanainen: This colloquial term is sometimes used to refer to female murderers.
  • Murhaaja: This is the official gender-neutral term which is used much more often than murhamies and murhanainen.

Murtomies: literally “burglary man”

  • Murtomies: This term is mainly used in spoken language to refer to burglars. However, you can find this term in tabloids such as Ilta-Sanomat. It refers specifically to men.
  • Murtautuja: This gender-neutral term is common in both spoken and written Finnish.

Muuttomies: literally “moving man”

  • Muuttomies: This word is still the main word used to refer to movers. Occasionally you can come across the term muuttonainen, but generally the people who come assist when you move houses are called muuttomiehet.
  • Muuttotyöntekijä: This term is used in job adverts but hardly at all in everyday language.

Myyntimies: literally “sales man”

  • Myyntimies: This term has a more specific meaning than just “salesperson”. It’s used to refer to a wholesale agent who generally sells items in bulk to companies.
  • Kauppaedustaja: This term is accepted as a gender-neutral alternative term for a sales representative.
  • Myyjä: Myyntimies and myyjä shouldn’t be used as synonyms. The profession myyjä is used for shopkeepers, not wholesale agents.

Mäkimies: literally “hill man”

  • Mäkimies: This word is a very colloquial term used to refer to a male ski jumper.
  • Mäkinainen: This term is to some extent also in use, when the need arises to specify that the ski jumper is female.
  • Mäkihyppääjä: This gender-neutral term translates to “hill jumper”. It’s the most common word for someone who competes in the ski jumping winter sport.

Ovimies: literally “door man”

  • Ovimies: This term is often used to mean both the person who checks people’s tickets in the cinema and the person who stands at the door of nightclubs and checks people’s age and such before letting them in.
  • Portsari: This spoken language word refers to the bouncer at nightclubs and restaurants. It’s gender-neutral.
  • Ovenvartija: This word translates as “door guard” and is a gender-neutral term for ovimies.

Palomies: literally “fire man”

  • Palomies: This word – just like the English “fireman” – refers to the profession of firefighter.
  • Palopelastaja: This is the official, gender-neutral term used to refer to firefighters in job advertisements and course names. It’s often shortened to pelastaja
  • Pelastaja: While this word often means “fire fighter”, in addition it can also mean “savior” in religious contexts. In fact, anyone who saves someone can also be called pelastaja.
  • Hengenpelastaja: This word means “life saver”. It’s not used as a synonym for fireman.

Pillimies: literally “whistle man”

  • Pillimies: This is a very informal word used to refer to the referee in sports. The term’s origin is clear when you realize that pilli means “whistle”.
  • Erotuomari: This is the regular gender-neutral term used for a referee.

Poliisimies: literally “police man”

  • Poliisimies: This word has gone out of style. However, if you need to specify that one specific, male police officer did something, it’s possible to use poliisimies. The female equivalent is naispoliisi.
  • Poliisi: This word can both mean the police force as a whole and a single police officer.

Poppamies: from Russian поп “priest” + man

  • Poppamies: This term refers to the high-status medicine man of tribes and ethnic groups who is often considered to have magical abilities, who can tell the future and/or functions as a healer.
  • Tietäjä: This term literally means “knower”. In English, you’d use the word “seer” or “wise man”.
  • Parantaja: This word “healer” means a person who heals people using folk medicines.

Poromies: literally “reindeer man”

  • Poromies: This informal term refers to a male person who makes their living looking after reindeer in Lapland.
  • Poronhoitaja: This word is literally “reindeer carer” but translates to English as “reindeer herder”. It’s a good gender-neutral term.
  • Poronomistaja: This gender-neutral word means “reindeer owner” and generally means the same thing as the two other terms already mentioned.

Postimies: literally “post man”

  • Postimies: This term is still in use in everyday language, but you won’t find it in job ads anymore.
  • Postinkantaja: This term is the Finnish equivalent of “mail carrier”. It’s a good gender-neutral term.
  • Postinjakaja: This word literally means “mail distributor”. It’s a good synonym for postinkantaja.
  • Postityöntekijä: This term is used in many job advertisements.

Putkimies: literally “pipe man”

  • Putkimies: This term is very commonly used in spoken language.
  • Putkiasentaja: This term is widely used as the gender-neutral term for putkimies.
  • LVI-asentaja: This less catchy term is the professional title someone receives when graduating as a plumber.

Pyssymies: literally “gun man”

  • Pyssymies: This term is a colloquial term for a male person armed with a gun. You will occasionally find this term in tabloids, though it’s a very informal word. There is no female equivalent for this term.
  • Asemies: This synonym for pyssymies term translates to “weapon man”.
  • Aseistautunut henkilö: This phrase means “armed person”. This will be used in the news when a person is posing a threat with a weapon. It’s a common gender-neutral term.
  • Ampuja: This word means “shooter”, so it’s used when the armed person has fired a shot.

Päämies: literally “head man”

  • Päämies (1): This word can be used, for example for “head of state” (valtion päämies) or “head of the family” (perheen/suvun päämies). These terms are still very much based on the idea of a patriarchy. The words johtaja and päällikkö are good gender-neutral synonyms for päämies.
  • Päämies (2): In legal matters this is the person who has been appointed to speak for someone in court. It’s used for both men and women.
  • Päähenkilö: This word is not the gender-neutral term for päämies! The term päähenkilö means the protagonist ie. the main character in a novel or music.

Rajavartiomies: literally “border guard man”

  • Rajavartiomies: This is an unnecessarily long word, which has a perfectly suitable, shorter and gender-neutral equivalent.
  • Rajavartija: This word translates as “border guard” and is a solid gender-neutral term.

Rakennusmies: literally “building man”

  • Rakennusmies: This term is generally used to refer to construction workers. In job advertisements, the word can be used to mean both men and women.
  • Talonrakentaja: Someone who graduates as a professional construction worker gets the title talonrakentaja, which translates as “house builder”. This is a gender-neutral term.
  • Rakennustyöntekijä: This term means “building worker” and is a good gender-neutral term.
  • Rakennustyöläinen: A synonym for rakennustyöntekijä.

Rintamamies: literally “battlefront man”

  • Rintamamies: This term is used to refer to battlefront soldiers and is fairly regularly used to talk about soldiers in – for example – the Finnish Winter War.
  • Rintamasotilas: This is the very commonly used gender-neutral term.

Satamamies: literally “harbour man”

  • Satamamies: This word means “dockworker” but isn’t used much anymore.
  • Satamatyöntekijä: A gender-neutral term for someone working in a harbour.
  • Satamatyöläinen: Another gender-neutral term for someone working in a harbour.

Sekatyömies: literally “mix work man”

  • Sekatyömies: This word refers to an unskilled laborer who does odd jobs for a living.
  • Sekatyöläinen: A possible gender-neutral alternative for sekatyömies which translates as “mixed laborer”.
  • Sekatyöntekijä: This gender-neutral term “mixed worker” is used in job advertisements.

Sähkömies: literally “electricity man”

  • Sähkömies: This is a commonly used informal name for sähköasentaja. An even more informal term for the same profession is sähkäri.
  • Sähköasentaja: The official title for the profession is gender-neutral and commonly used alongside the spoken language sähkömies.

Taksimies: literally “taxi man”

  • Taksimies: The word taksimies is listed in dictionaries as “male taxi driver”.
  • Taksinkuljettaja: This is the gender-neutral, official name for a taxi driver. In spoken language, this word is shortened into taksikuski.

Talonmies: literally “house man”

  • Talonmies: This word can be used as a synonym for huoltomies, but it generally refers to someone who takes care of multiple buildings rather than just one. There is also a difference in their job description. A talonmies takes care of chores other than small repairs as well: they mow the lawn, plow the snow, clean up, attend to the heating system and much more. Traditionally, a talonmies lived in the apartment building themselves, with the apartment they lived in being one of the perks of the profession. This is often not the case anymore.
  • Talkkari: This is the spoken language gender-neutral equivalent of talonmies.
  • Talonhoitaja: While talonmies is still the main term, talonhoitaja could be a good gender-neutral alternative. This term hasn’t become popular yet.

Tiedemies: literally “science man”

  • Tiedemies: This word is currently mainly used to specifically talk about male scientists. This is in contrast with the word tiedenainen, which is a common term in history books about Marie Curie and other female scientists.
  • Tieteilijä: This is the gender-neutral term for scientist which is used in most situations.
  • Tieteentekijä (literally “science maker”) and tieteenharjoittaja (literally “science practitioner”) are also possible terms.

Tullimies: literally “toll man”

  • Tullivirkamies: A virkamies is employed by the government, so a tullivirkamies is a government official appointed to work for Customs.
  • Tullivirkailija: This is a good gender-neutral term that means “Customs officer”.
  • Tullimies: In everyday language, tullimies can be a synonym of tullivirkamies. In addition, this term can also be used for lower-level customs officers. Ammattinetti.fi has removed tullimies from their database.
  • Tullitarkastaja: This is a common gender-neutral alternative for tullimies, literally “Customs inspector”.

Turvamies: literally “safety man”

  • Turvamies: The Finnish equivalent of “security guard”, which specifically means someone who’s employed to make sure of someone else’s safety. This word is often used in the plural, for example “presidentin turvamiehet” (the president’s security guards).
  • Henkivartija: The Finnish equivalent of “bodyguard”, which literally translated means “lifeguard”. This is a gender-neutral term.

Työmies: literally “work man”

  • Työmies: This term can be used to refer to a simple laborer. You’ll often find työmies as part of a compound word, specifying what type of work the man does. You can have, for example, metsätyömies, or sähkötyömies. A työmies refers specifically to a male worker.
  • Työläinen: This is the gender-neutral term used to refer to a worker.

Valtionpäämies: literally “state head man”

  • Valtionpäämies: This word is still in use, probably because so many of the big guys in politics are still men. It’s a term often used in the plural when talking about how important political leaders meet each other, eg. Valtionpäämiehet kokoontuvat Pariisiin “The heads of state meet in Paris”.
  • Valtionjohtaja: This is a common gender-neutral term. Can also be valtiojohtaja.

Varamies: literally “spare man”

  • Varamies: This term is especially common in sports when talking about reserve players.
  • Varahenkilö: This gender-neutral term hasn’t caught on in sports very much, but it is used in the workplace for substitute teachers or nurses. A sijainen is an actual substitute worker, while a varahenkilö is on standby until an actual substitute is needed.

Varastomies: literally “warehouse man”

  • Varastomies: This term is used for men working in a warehouse.
  • Varastotyöntekijä: This is the gender-neutral term for a warehouse worker.

Vasaramies: literally “hammer man”

  • Vasaramies: This is a humorous job description for an auctioneer.
  • Meklari: This is the official, gender-neutral term.
  • Huutokaupanpitäjä: This gender-neutral term (which translates as “auction keeper”) is useful because its meaning is clear to Finns right away. Meklari is less clear.

Veturimies: literally “locomotive man”

  • Veturimies: This term can be used in spoken language when talking about a train’s driver.
  • Veturinkuljettaja: This is the official term, which is gender-neutral and used in job advertisements.

Virkamies: literally “public office man”

  • Virkamies: This word means “public sector worker”: their employer is the government or a municipality. It’s commonly used to refer to both men and women.
  • Viranhaltija: “public position holder” is a pretty good gender-neutral term that describes the position pretty well.
  • Virkanainen: This word is rarely used, and according to Kielitoimiston sanakirja‘s definition it isn’t the female counterpart of virkamies. Instead, it means a woman who works in an office, or even more generally a woman who simply isn’t a housewife.

Gendered Titles that are Still Prevalent

The following gendered terms are official titles. Persons who have been appointed to a certain position in court or politics often have a title that ends in -mies. This is the case for both men and women. There is often no gender-neutral term for these position titles.

Finnish English
In court and politics
haastemies bailiff
ikäpuhemies Father of the House
lautamies lay judge; juror (in Finland)
puhemies chairman, speaker
valamies juror (eg. in the US and the UK)
valitsijamies elector
välimies arbitrator, intermediary
In the army
ratsumies cavalryman
siviilipalvelusmies civil servant
siviilivirkamies civil servant
sotamies private soldier
tykkimies artilleryman
varusmies conscript
vartiomies sentry
viestimies private in the signal corps
In the navy
kansimies deckhand
perämies first mate, co-pilot
pursimies boatswain
ruorimies steersman
ylipursimies sub-officer

Gendered Titles in Politics and Court

Haastemies (literally “summons man”): This word is the official job title for a court officer responsible for delivering court orders. Just like many other government offices, there is no alternative gender-neutral name for this.

Ikäpuhemies (literally “age speech man”): This word is an official position in politics. It refers to the oldest Member of Parliament, who serves as the Speaker before the proper Speaker is chosen.

Lautamies (literally “board man”): This is the official title for jurors in the district court, who fulfil their duty as lay judges together with the district judge. You can also call this person a maallikkotuomari, which literally means “lay judge”, but this is not the official term in Finnish.

Puhemies (literally “speech man”): This term refers to the speaker (the chairman) of the Finnish parliament. If needed, you can use the descriptive term “parlamentin puheenjohtaja” but just plain puhemies is used for both male and female speakers of parliament.

Valamies (literally “oath man”): This is another official court title, which has a similar meaning as lautamies, but is used in the court system of the US and the UK.

Valitsijamies (literally “elector man”): This term refers to electors, which you’re probably familiar with from US politics.

Välimies (literally “intermediate man”): In court, this official title is giver to the arbitrator or intermediary who helps settle disputes between two parties without going to court. This title is used for both men and women.

Gendered Military Ranks

Ratsumies (literally “mount man”): This term is the official name for a soldier in the cavalry. In everyday language, it can be used for a male person who rides a horse, but in these cases, the gender-neutral term ratsastaja is a better choice.

Siviilipalvelusmies (literally “civil service man”): This is the official term for someone who’s currently undergoing their non-military service as a young adult. This term is used for both men and women.

Siviilivirkamies (literally “civil public servant”): This is still the official term for someone employed by the Department of Defense as a non-soldier (a siviili). Like many other army- and government-related terms, there is no gender-neutral term for this.

Sotamies (literally “war man”): This is the official term for the lowest rank in military for both men and women. In everyday language, this word can be used as a synonym of sotilas “soldier”, but in the army it refers to privates.

Tykkimies (literally “gun man”): This military rank refers to a male or female who is part of the artillery unit of the army or has had training for it.

Varusmies: This military title refers to a conscript or draftee, ie. a person who’s doing military service. It is still the official term, whether you’re male or female. In spoken Finnish, you can hear the word varusnainen, but this is not an official term. Other non-official terms include varushenkilö and asevelvollinen.

Vartiomies (literally “guard man”): This term is used in the army to refer to a person who has been trained to be a sentry. It’s used to refer both to male and female sentries. Occasionally this word is also used in an everyday setting, but you should rather use the word vartija.

Viestimies (literally “message man”): A male or female private in the signal corps has the official title of viestimies.

Gendered Navy Ranks

Kansimies (literally “deck man”): This word refers to sailors functioning as deckhands on a ship. This word is used for both men and women.

Perämies (literally “stern man”): In a ship’s crew, this job title refers to the crew member who is in charge of the ship after the ship’s captain. You call this person the first mate in English. On an airplane, this job title refers to the co-pilot. This word is used for both men and women.
Pursimies (literally “vessel man”): This word refers to the ship’s crew member that leads the deckhands on a ship. The term can refer to both male and female boatswains.

Ruorimies (literally “helm man”): This word refers to sailors functioning at the stern of a ship, steering the ship. This word is also used for both men and women.

Ylipursimies (literally “over vessel man”): This is a rank of sub-officer in the Finnish navy. There is no gender-neutral term.

Read More from Other Sources

Some of these sources have words that didn’t make it to my list, so check them out if you want to learn more words!

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
frederico

The people (all men) we employed for our remonnti always used ‘rakentari/rakentaja/putkari/sähkäri’ — I was also taught edustaja and johtaja from the beginning, I was actually surprised they were -mies words to begin!

Inge (admin)

Nice, isn’t it! The Finnish language has gone a long way towards gender neutrality.

This is a great article, kiitos paljon!