feminine

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:

  • feminine — mid 14c., of the female sex, from O.Fr. femenin (12c.) feminine, female; with feminine qualities, effeminate, from L. femininus feminine (in the grammatical sense at first), from femina woman, female, lit. she who suckles, from root of felare to… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Feminine — Fem i*nine, a. [L. femininus, fr. femina woman; prob. akin to L. fetus, or to Gr. qh^sqai to suck, qh^sai to suckle, Skr. dh[=a] to suck; cf. AS. f[=ae]mme woman, maid: cf. F. f[ e]minin. See {Fetus}.] 1. Of or pertaining to a woman, or to women; …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • feminine — ► ADJECTIVE 1) having qualities traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness. 2) female. 3) Grammar referring to a gender of nouns and adjectives, conventionally regarded as female. ► NOUN (the feminine) ▪ the female… …   English terms dictionary

  • feminine — [fem′ə nin] adj. [ME < OFr < L femininus < femina, woman] 1. female; of women or girls 2. having qualities regarded as characteristic of women and girls, as gentleness, weakness, delicacy, or modesty 3. suitable to or characteristic of a …   English World dictionary

  • Feminine — Fem i*nine, n. 1. A woman. [Obs. or Colloq.] [1913 Webster] They guide the feminines toward the palace. Hakluyt. [1913 Webster] 2. (Gram.) Any one of those words which are the appellations of females, or which have the terminations usually found… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • feminine — *female, womanly, womanish, ladylike, womanlike, effeminate Antonyms: masculine Contrasted words: *male, manly, mannish, virile, manlike, manful …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • féminine — ● féminin, féminine adjectif (latin femininus, de femina, femme) Qui est propre à la femme : Le charme féminin. Se dit d un groupe composé de femmes : Équipe féminine. Qui a rapport aux femmes : Vêtements féminins. Qui est destiné, réservé aux… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • feminine — 01. Her father thought that women who were strong and confident were not really [feminine]. 02. The traditional [feminine] role is that of a housewife and mother. 03. Our apartment has a very [feminine] look with its soft colors, and pictures of… …   Grammatical examples in English

  • feminine — I. adjective Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo French feminin, from Latin femininus, from femina woman; akin to Old English delu nipple, Latin filius son, felix, fetus, & fecundus fruitful, felare to suck, Greek thēlē nipple Date: 14th… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • feminine — [[t]fe̱mɪnɪn[/t]] 1) ADJ: usu ADJ n Feminine qualities and things relate to or are considered typical of women, in contrast to men. ...male leaders worrying about their women abandoning traditional feminine roles. ...a manufactured ideal of… …   English dictionary

  • Féminine — Féminité La féminité est l’ensemble des caractères morphologiques psychologiques et comportementaux propres aux femmes. Ils sont biologiquement liés au sexe et fortement influencés, voire conditionnés par l’environnement socioculturel. Ils sont… …   Wikipédia en Français

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