Monday, September 14, 2015

Word of the day: epicene

The word of the day is epicene:

  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.
mid-15c., originally a grammatical term for nouns that may denote either gender, from L. epicoenus "common," from Gk. epikoinos, from epi- "on" + koinos "common." Extended sense of "characteristic of both sexes" first recorded in English c.1600; that of "effeminate" 1630s. (

"In the 1870s he was gentle, thoughtful, amusing, a spirit that glowed through a frail, almost epicene body.  He had come out of the war with wounds that kept him sickly, but he still managed to do the work of three.  His hands were pale and attenuated, his smile was of great sweetness."

 - Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

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