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.

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

Historical Examples of epicene

  • What's the meaning of this; and what, may I ask, is the intention of this—this epicene attire?

    Stalky &amp; Co.

    Rudyard Kipling

  • He looked away, for that epicene tenderness of hers was too harrowing.

    Jude the Obscure

    Thomas Hardy

  • Sentiment is the ultima ratio feminarum, and of men whose natures are of the epicene gender.

  • But a liberal-minded public grew more and more in favor of epicene colleges.

  • He was a great contrast to the epicene bird-like creature who had lorded it over the civic fortunes of Valladolid.

    The American Egypt

    Channing Arnold

British Dictionary definitions for epicene



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