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  1. lacking in wholesome vigor; degenerate; decadent: an effete, overrefined society.
  2. exhausted of vigor or energy; worn out: an effete political force.
  3. unable to produce; sterile.

Origin of effete

1615–25; < Latin effēta exhausted from bearing, equivalent to ef- ef- + fēta having brought forth, feminine past participle of lost v.; see fetus
Related formsef·fete·ly, adverbef·fete·ness, nounnon·ef·fete, adjectivenon·ef·fete·ly, adverbnon·ef·fete·ness, nounun·ef·fete, adjectiveun·ef·fete·ness, noun
Can be confusedeffeminate effete feminine womanish womanly (see synonym study at womanly)

Synonyms for effete

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2. enervated, debilitated.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for effete


  1. weak, ineffectual, or decadent as a result of overrefinementan effete academic
  2. exhausted of vitality or strength; worn out; spent
  3. (of animals or plants) no longer capable of reproduction
Derived Formseffetely, adverbeffeteness, noun

Word Origin for effete

C17: from Latin effētus having produced young, hence, exhausted by bearing, from fētus having brought forth; see fetus
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for effete

1620s, from Latin effetus (usually in fem. effeta) "exhausted, unproductive, worn out (with bearing offspring), past bearing," literally "that has given birth," from a lost verb, *efferi, from ex- "out" (see ex-) + fetus "childbearing, offspring" (see fetus). Figurative use is earliest in English; literal use is rare. Sense of "exhausted" is 1660s; that of "intellectually or morally exhausted" (1790) led to "decadent" (19c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper