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From Middle English female, an alteration of Middle English femelle, from Old French femele, femelle (female), from Medieval Latin fēmella (a female), from Latin fēmella (a girl, a young female, a young woman), diminutive of fēmina (a woman). The English spelling and pronunciation were remodelled under the influence of male, which is otherwise not etymologically related. Contrast woman, which is etymologically built on man (as in person).


  • IPA(key): /ˈfiː.meɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːmeɪl


female (not generally comparable, comparative femaler or more female, superlative femalest or most female)

  1. Belonging to the sex which typically produces eggs (ova), or to the gender which is typically associated with it. [from 14th c.]
    female authors, the leading male and female artists, a female bird cooing at a male, intersex female patients, a trans female vlogger
    • 1997, Vicki León, Uppity Women of Medieval Times (Conari Press, →ISBN), page 2:
      Twice in her thirty-year career she held office in the blacksmiths' guild. Ms. [Fya] upper Bach was no fluke, either: legal and guild records from medieval Germany list other female blacksmiths, coppersmiths, tinsmiths, and pewterers. Some of these redoubtable women gained entry into the guild through "widow's rights"; others, however, made it on sheer mettle and muscle.
    • 2017, Rick Riordan, Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor (→ISBN), page 271:
      I turned to [gender-fluid] Alex. "Hey, are you female today? [...] The Skofnung Sword [...] can't be drawn in the presence of women."
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:female.
  2. Characteristic of this sex/gender. (Compare feminine, womanly.)
    stereotypically female pastimes, an insect with typically female coloration
    • 1987, Don't Shoot[,] Darling!: Women's Independent Filmmaking in Australia, page 350:
      A travelling shot of a harbour view near Sydney's White Bay moves into a domestic interior as a female voice says, 'There was nowhere else to live except alone.'
    • 2004, Mino Vianello, Gwen Moore, Women and Men in Political and Business Elites: A Comparative Study (→ISBN):
      More than that, we cannot find the same dynamics within female career trajectories as in the other two country groups, because the time-structure of female and male careers already shows great similarity within the older generation of elites. In addition, the pattern of the relation between female and male careers remains the same over time.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:female.
  3. Tending to lead to or regulate the development of sexual characteristics typical of this sex.
    the female chromosome;   estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, is produced by both females and males
  4. (grammar, less common than 'feminine') Feminine; of the feminine grammatical gender.
    • 2012, Naomi McIlwraith, Kiyâm: Poems, →ISBN, page 43:
      The teacher's voice inflects the pulse of nêhiyawêwin as he teaches us. He says a prayer in the first class. Nouns, we learn, have a gender. In French, nouns are male or female, but in Cree, nouns are living or non-living, animate or inanimate.
    • 2012, Sinéad Leleu, Michaela Greck-Ismair, German Pen Pals Made Easy KS3:
      If you are describing a female noun, you must make the adjective feminine by adding an 'e'. If you describe a male noun, you add an 'er'. For neutral nouns you add an 'es'.
  5. (figuratively) Having an internal socket, as in a connector or pipe fitting. [from 16th c.]
    • 1993, Ed Sarviel, Construction Estimating Reference Data (→ISBN), page 284:
      A ground-joint union is made in three separate pieces and is used for joining two pipes. It consists of two machined pieces with female pipe threads, which are screwed on the pipes to be united, and a threaded collar which holds the two pieces of the union together.


Coordinate termsEdit

Derived termsEdit

  • (see below)



female (plural females)

  1. One of the female (feminine) sex or gender.
    1. (possibly offensive) A human of the feminine sex or gender.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:female
      Hyponyms: girl, woman; see also Thesaurus:girl, Thesaurus:woman
      • 2004, Eric Vilain and Edward R. B. McCabe, “DAX1 and X-Linked Adrenal Hypoplasia Congenita and XY Sex Reversal”, in Charles J. Epstein, Robert P. Erickson, and Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, editors, Inborn Errors of Development: The Molecular Basis of Clinical Disorders of Morphogenesis, New York: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 508:
        XY female patients with gonadal dysgenesis are sometimes referred to as “XY sex-reversed” patients or individuals with “XY sex reversal” (Simpson and Martin, 1981). Although widely used, this terminology is somewhat vague as it does not distinguish XY females with gonadal dysgenesis from XY females with androgen resistance.
    2. An animal of the sex that produces eggs.
      • 1983, Richard Ellis, The Book of Sharks, Knopf, →ISBN, page 36:
        Accumulated data indicate that in all species of sharks, the females grow larger than the males.
    3. (botany) A plant which produces only that kind of reproductive organ capable of developing into fruit after impregnation or fertilization; a pistillate plant.

Usage notesEdit

Due to its zoological use, some find it dehumanizing to refer to women as "female(s)", especially in non-technical contexts. Other have criticized it as being overly used for women compared to the use of "male(s)" for men, and occasionally "woman" is used instead of "female" in the adjectival sense as well (eg. woman voter).[1][2] It is frequently used in police blotters, dispatches, and reports.


Derived termsEdit

Terms derived from female (adjective or noun)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ “Opinion | Language: Woman vs. female”, in The New York Times[1], 18 March 2007, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2022-01-20
  2. ^ “Why We Need to Reclaim the Word 'Female'”, in Time[2], 2016-04-20, retrieved 2022-01-20