[ fee-meyl ]
See synonyms for: femalefemalesfemaleness on Thesaurus.com

  1. having or relating to a gender identity that corresponds to a complex, variable set of social and cultural roles, traits, and behaviors assigned to people of the sex that typically produces egg cells. : See Usage note at gender1

    • Biology. of, relating to, or being an animal or human of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces egg cells during reproduction.: See Usage note at sex1

    • Botany. designating or relating to a plant or its reproductive structure that produces or contains elements requiring fertilization.

    • Botany. (of seed plants) pistillate.

  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of a female person; feminine: female suffrage;female charm.

  2. comprising female people: a female readership.

  3. Machinery. being or having a recessed part into which a corresponding part fits: a female plug.: Compare male (def. 5).

  1. a female person.: See Usage note at the current entry.

  2. Biology. an animal, plant, or plant structure of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces egg cells during reproduction.

Origin of female

First recorded in 1275–1325; Middle English, variant (by association with male) of femelle, from Anglo-French femaile, female, femell, Old French femel(l)e, from Latin fēmella, diminutive of fēmina “woman” (see -elle); in Vulgar Latin developing the sense “female of an animal”

synonym study For female

6. See woman. 1-4. Female, feminine, effeminate are adjectives that describe women and girls or attributes and conduct culturally ascribed to them. Female, which is applied to plants and animals as well as to human beings, is often used as a biological or physiological descriptor, classifying individuals on the basis of their potential or actual ability to produce offspring in bisexual reproduction. It contrasts with male in all uses: her oldest female relative; the female parts of the flower. Feminine refers essentially to qualities or behaviors deemed by a culture or society to be especially appropriate to or ideally associated with women and girls. In American and Western European culture, these have traditionally included features such as delicacy, gentleness, gracefulness, and patience: to dance with feminine grace; a feminine sensitivity to moods. Feminine is also, less frequently, used to refer to physical features: a lovely feminine figure; small, feminine hands. Effeminate is most often applied derogatorily to men or boys, suggesting that they have character or behavior traits culturally believed to be appropriate to women and girls rather than to men: an effeminate horror of rough play; an effeminate speaking style. See also womanly.

usage note For female

Some women are offended by being called “a female” when this word is used as a noun. Its use by men, particularly in sexual or romantic contexts, may be especially problematic.

Other words from female

  • fe·male·ness, noun
  • an·ti·fe·male, adjective
  • un·fe·male, adjective

Words that may be confused with female

  • female , feminine (see synonym study at the current entry)

Words Nearby female

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use female in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for female


/ (ˈfiːmeɪl) /

  1. of, relating to, or designating the sex producing gametes (ova) that can be fertilized by male gametes (spermatozoa)

  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of a woman: female charm

  1. for or composed of women or girls: female suffrage; a female choir

  2. (of reproductive organs such as the ovary and carpel) capable of producing female gametes

  3. (of gametes such as the ovum) capable of being fertilized by a male gamete in sexual reproduction

  4. (of flowers) lacking, or having nonfunctional, stamens

  5. having an internal cavity into which a projecting male counterpart can be fitted: a female thread

    • a female animal or plant

    • derogatory a woman or girl

Origin of female

C14: from earlier femelle (influenced by male), from Latin fēmella a young woman, from fēmina a woman

Derived forms of female

  • femaleness, noun

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

Scientific definitions for female


[ māl′ ]

  1. In organisms that reproduce sexually, being the gamete that is larger and less motile than the other corresponding gamete (the male gamete) of the same species. The egg cells of higher animals and plants are female gametes.

  2. Possessing or being a structure that produces only female gametes. The ovaries of humans are female reproductive organs. Female flowers possess only carpels and no stamens.

  1. Having the genitalia or other structures typical of a female organism. Worker ants are female but sterile.

  1. A female organism.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.