History was made when the Biden administration was sworn in — Kamala Harris became the first female vice president and her husband Doug Emhoff was dubbed the second gentleman, a groundbreaking title that’s now been officially recognized by the esteemed Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Second gentleman is defined as “the husband or male partner of a vice president or second in command of a country or jurisdiction.”
Merriam-Webster also revealed that the first known use of the phrase “second gentleman” was in 1976. In a January statement during which it announced the addition of 520 new words, including “ASMR,” “crowdfunding” and the coronavirus-related “long hauler,” it noted that various states have had second gentlemen in the past, but the term is now common enough for inclusion.
“In concert with a new family’s arrival at Number One Observatory Circle, on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory, the term Second Gentleman has finally met our criteria for dictionary entry,” the company noted. “Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Douglas Craig Emhoff, is the first Second Gentleman the United States has ever had.”
Emhoff, whose Twitter bio reads “Second Gentleman of the United States. Devoted dad. Proud husband to @VP Kamala Harris,” tweeted about Merriam-Webster’s recognition.
“Well, now it’s official,” he wrote.
Well, now it's official. @MerriamWebster just added "Second Gentleman" to the dictionary.
I might be the first, but I won't be the last. https://t.co/1PFsrYslgM
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) January 28, 2021
His post also echoed the phrase the vice president has used to define her own historic position: “I might be the first, but I won’t be the last.”
Along with being the first male spouse of a vice president, the second gentleman is also the first Jewish spouse of an American vice president. Emhoff has been married to Vice President Kamala Harris since 2014.
On Inauguration Day, he cut all ties with his law firm DLA Piper, where he had practiced law in intellectual property and technology and its media, sports and entertainment sector, reported CNN. His next role starts this week: teaching an entertainment law class at Georgetown Law as part of the faculty.
He also plans to devote time as second gentleman to social justice issues and other projects in support of the Biden administration. The day after the inauguration, he tweeted that hopes to follow in his predecessors’ footsteps.
I am honored to be the first male spouse of an American President or Vice President. But I'll always remember generations of women have served in this role before me—often without much accolade or acknowledgment. It’s their legacy of progress I will build on as Second Gentleman.
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) January 21, 2021
“I’ll always remember generations of women have served in this role before me — often without much accolade or acknowledgment,” he wrote. “It’s their legacy of progress I will build on as Second Gentleman.”
On Jan. 28, Emhoff took part in his first solo event as second gentleman, visiting a Washington, DC, nonprofit organization that supports healthy food distribution for those in need. He described it as “something everyone needs to be concerned about,” per AP News.
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