Origin of female

1275–1325; Middle English, variant (by association with male) of femelle < Anglo-French, Old French femel(l)e < Latin fēmella, diminutive of fēmina woman (see -elle); in VL developing the sense “female of an animal”
Related formsfe·male·ness, nounan·ti·fe·male, adjectiveun·fe·male, adjective
Can be confusedfemale feminine (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for female

1. See woman. 4–7. 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 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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for femaleness

womanliness, femineity

Examples from the Web for femaleness

Contemporary Examples of femaleness

  • To be sure, he remains one of our most unabashedly heterosexual writers, reveling in the taste of femaleness.

    The Daily Beast logo
    John Updike's Final Chapter

    Daphne Merkin

    January 29, 2009

Historical Examples of femaleness

  • For she knew that she had always her price of ransom—her femaleness.

    The Rainbow

    D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence

  • Without Maleness, Femaleness has no significance—no existence, in fact.

  • In the many books about women it is, naturally, their femaleness that has been studied and enlarged upon.

  • Sex—that is to say, maleness and femaleness—is present from the moment of birth, and in every act or deed of every child.

  • Biologists now generally prefer to say that a fertilized egg is "predisposed" to maleness or femaleness, instead of "determined."

    Taboo and Genetics

    Melvin Moses Knight, Iva Lowther Peters, and Phyllis Mary Blanchard

British Dictionary definitions for femaleness



of, relating to, or designating the sex producing gametes (ova) that can be fertilized by male gametes (spermatozoa)
of, relating to, or characteristic of a womanfemale charm
for or composed of women or girlsfemale suffrage; a female choir
(of reproductive organs such as the ovary and carpel) capable of producing female gametes
(of gametes such as the ovum) capable of being fertilized by a male gamete in sexual reproduction
(of flowers) lacking, or having nonfunctional, stamens
having an internal cavity into which a projecting male counterpart can be fitteda female thread


  1. a female animal or plant
  2. derogatorya woman or girl
Derived Formsfemaleness, noun

Word Origin for female

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

1889, from female + -ness.



early 14c., from Old French femelle (12c.) "woman, female," from Medieval Latin femella "a female," from Latin femella "young female, girl," diminutive of femina "woman" (see feminine).

Sense extended in Vulgar Latin from humans to female of other animals. Spelling altered late 14c. on mistaken parallel of male. As an adjective, from early 14c. Reference to sockets, etc., is from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

femaleness in Medicine




Of, relating to, or denoting the sex that produces ova or bears young.


A member of the sex that produces ova or bears young.
A woman or girl.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

femaleness in Science




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


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