See more synonyms for epicene on Thesaurus.com
  1. belonging to, or partaking of the characteristics of, both sexes: Fashions in clothing are becoming increasingly epicene.
  2. flaccid; feeble; weak: an epicene style of writing.
  3. effeminate; unmasculine.
  4. (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.
  5. Grammar. (of a noun or pronoun) capable of referring to either sex, as attendant, chairperson, Kim, one, or they; having common gender.
  1. 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. 2018

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


  1. having the characteristics of both sexes; hermaphroditic
  2. of neither sex; sexless
  3. effeminate
  4. grammar
    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
  1. an epicene person or creature
  2. 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