female

female, feminine
1. general.
Female is used as an adjective, contrasting with the etymologically unrelated word male, to designate the sex of humans and animals that can bear offspring and to designate plants that are fruit-bearing. Feminine is used only of humans and has two additional meanings: (1) denoting characteristics or qualities associated with women, and (2) contrasted with masculine and neuter, denoting a class of grammatical gender. Both words also have technical meanings in various domains. In broad terms female is used principally to indicate the sex of a person, animal or plant, whereas feminine is used of characteristics regarded as typical of women, i.e. beauty, gentleness, delicacy, softness, etc. See also womanly, womanish.
2. female as a noun.
Female has a long history in the meaning ‘a female person’; ‘a woman or girl’, but despite this several 19c usage guides advised against the use on the grounds that it was unsuitable to apply the same term to animals and human beings. The OED (in 1895) said of female used as a synonym for woman that ‘the simple use is now commonly avoided by good writers, except with contemptuous implication’. This observation holds good in our gender-sensitive age, and it would be difficult to contemplate female being used in this way without some degree of disparagement being intended or understood:

• He had no option now but to speak to his landlady in the morning about letting this homeless female have his bed for the night —M. J. Staples, 1992.

The use is best reserved for use in natural history and for occasions when a general or neutral term is needed (for example, in medical or other technical writing) to include both woman and girl, or to avoid the social distinctions still sometimes inherent in woman and lady:

• More than 55 females, from babies to elderly women, have been killed during the first year of the Uprising —Spare Rib, 1989

• We have found that females with male twins are significantly disadvantaged compared to those with female twins or compared to males with male twins —Daily Mail, 2007.


Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Female — (♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces ova (egg cells). The ova are defined as the larger gametes in a heterogamous reproduction system, while the smaller, usually motile gamete, the spermatozoon, is produced by… …   Wikipedia

  • Female — Fe male, a. 1. Belonging to the sex which conceives and gives birth to young, or (in a wider sense) which produces ova; not male. [1913 Webster] As patient as the female dove When that her golden couplets are disclosed. Shak. [1913 Webster] 2.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • female — n Female, woman, lady are comparable when meaning a person and especially an adult who belongs to the sex that is the counterpart of the male sex. Female (the correlative of male) emphasizes the idea of sex; it applies not only to human beings… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • female — Ⅰ. female UK US /ˈfiːmeɪl/ adjective ► belonging or relating to women: »The percentage of female managers in industry has doubled in five years. ► used to describe a piece of equipment that has a hole or space into which another part can be… …   Financial and business terms

  • female — (n.) early 14c., from O.Fr. femelle (12c.) woman, female, from M.L. femella a female, from L. femella young female, girl, dim. of femina woman (see FEMININE (Cf. feminine)). Sense extended in V.L. from humans to female of other animals. Spelling… …   Etymology dictionary

  • female — [fē′māl΄] adj. [ME, altered after MALE < femelle < OFr < L femella, dim. of femina, a woman < IE base * dhē , to suck, suckle > L felare, to suck, filius, son, fetus, progeny, Gr thēlazein, to suckle, thele, nipple] 1. designating… …   English World dictionary

  • female — ► ADJECTIVE 1) referring to the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs. 2) relating to or characteristic of women or female animals. 3) (of a plant or flower) having a pistil but no stamens. 4) (of a fitting) manufactured hollow so that a… …   English terms dictionary

  • Female — Fe male, n. [OE. femel, femal, F. femelle, fr. L. femella, dim. of femina woman. See {Feminine}.] 1. An individual of the sex which conceives and brings forth young, or (in a wider sense) which has an ovary and produces ova. [1913 Webster] The… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • female — [adj] having the qualities or characteristics of a woman effeminate, fecund, feminine, fertile, maternal, muliebrous, womanish, womanly; concepts 371,408 Ant. male, masculine female [n] woman daughter, femme, gal, gentlewoman, girl, grandmother,… …   New thesaurus

  • female — female. См. самка. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

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