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[ep-i-seen] /ˈɛp ɪˌsin/
belonging to, or partaking of the characteristics of, both sexes:
Fashions in clothing are becoming increasingly epicene.
flaccid; feeble; weak:
an epicene style of writing.
effeminate; unmasculine.
(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.
Grammar. (of a noun or pronoun) capable of referring to either sex, as attendant, chairperson, Kim, one, or they; having common gender.
a person or thing that is epicene.
Origin of epicene
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin epicoenus of both genders < Greek epíkoinos common to many, equivalent to epi- epi- + koinós common
Related forms
epicenism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for epicene
Historical Examples
  • But a liberal-minded public grew more and more in favor of epicene colleges.

  • What's the meaning of this; and what, may I ask, is the intention of this—this epicene attire?

    Stalky & Co. Rudyard Kipling
  • 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
  • He looked away, for that epicene tenderness of hers was too harrowing.

    Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
  • This seemed to him an odd way to look at things, and he boggled over a phrase about an "epicene lily."

    Huntingtower John Buchan
  • Sentiment is the ultima ratio feminarum, and of men whose natures are of the epicene gender.

  • The latest development of the impulses which animate the epicene sex has taken its expression in after-dinner oratory.

British Dictionary definitions for epicene


having the characteristics of both sexes; hermaphroditic
of neither sex; sexless
  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
an epicene person or creature
an epicene noun
Derived Forms
epicenism, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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