[ ep-i-seen ]
/ ˈɛp ɪˌsin /


belonging to, or partaking of the characteristics of, both sexes: Fashions in clothing are becoming increasingly epicene.
flaccid; feeble; weak: an epicene style of writing.
effeminate; unmasculine.
(of Greek and Latin nouns) of the same gender class regardless of the sex of the being referred to, as Latin vulpēs “fox or vixen” is always grammatically feminine.
Grammar. (of a noun or pronoun) capable of referring to either sex, as attendant, chairperson, Kim, one, or they; having common gender.


a person or thing that is epicene.

Nearby words

  1. epicardia,
  2. epicardium,
  3. epicarp,
  4. epicaste,
  5. epicedium,
  6. epicenter,
  7. epicentre,
  8. epicentrum,
  9. epichlorohydrin,
  10. epicist

Origin of epicene

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin epicoenus of both genders < Greek epíkoinos common to many, equivalent to epi- epi- + koinós common

Related formsep·i·cen·ism, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for epicene

British Dictionary definitions for epicene


/ (ˈɛpɪˌsiːn) /


having the characteristics of both sexes; hermaphroditic
of neither sex; sexless
  1. denoting a noun that may refer to a male or a female, such as teacher as opposed to businessman or shepherd
  2. (in Latin, Greek, etc) denoting a noun that retains the same grammatical gender regardless of the sex of the referent


an epicene person or creature
an epicene noun
Derived Formsepicenism, noun

Word Origin for epicene

C15: from Latin epicoenus of both genders, from Greek epikoinos common to many, from koinos common

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 epicene



mid-15c., epycen, originally a grammatical term for nouns that may denote either gender, from Latin epicoenus "common," from Greek epikoinos "common to many, promiscuous," from epi "on" (see epi-) + koinos "common" (see coeno-). Extended sense of "characteristic of both sexes" first recorded in English c.1600; that of "effeminate" 1630s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper