Justice Ministry district courts spokeswoman Kate Penny said it was believed jury heads in New Zealand had been called a foreman, regardless of gender, since 1841.
However, a Criminal Procedure Bill passed in parliament this winter had changed the word to foreperson, to take effect from December.
Judge Kevin Phillips asked a freshly selected jury to choose its "foreperson" ahead of a trial in the Invercargill District Court last week.
When asked to comment, Ms Penny said in an emailed response the wording change was consistent with the move to gender neutral language in statute law and reflected the language generally used in court.
But Sir Robert Jones, a media personality and author, said it was silly and an abuse of language.
"It's typical of the Government where they have gone berserk with this sort of stuff." "It's not a feminist takeover, it's a lesbian takeover in Wellington," Mr Jones said.
"There's hardly a Government head that's not a lesbian ... so many lesbians are in top jobs and they don't want to acknowledge any sex.
It's a neutralisation of sex instead of saying foreman or forewoman." The Justice Ministry declined to comment on what Mr Jones had said.
Judge Phillips said foreperson was an unfamiliar phrase and he was still getting his tongue around it.
"... we have been using similar gender-neutral terms for quite some time. It is a sign of the times and ... better than 'madame foreman'."