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[fee-meyl] /ˈfi meɪl/
a person bearing two X chromosomes in the cell nuclei and normally having a vagina, a uterus and ovaries, and developing at puberty a relatively rounded body and enlarged breasts, and retaining a beardless face; a girl or woman.
an organism of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces egg cells.
Botany. a pistillate plant.
of, relating to, or being a female animal or plant.
of, relating to, or characteristic of a female person; feminine:
female suffrage; female charm.
composed of females:
a female readership.
  1. designating or pertaining to a plant or its reproductive structure that produces or contains elements requiring fertilization.
  2. (of seed plants) pistillate.
Machinery. being or having a recessed part into which a corresponding part fits:
a female plug.
Compare male (def 5).
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 forms
femaleness, noun
antifemale, adjective
unfemale, adjective
Can be confused
female, feminine (see synonym study at the current entry)
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for femaleness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Her problem is to get the factor on which the quality depends into an ovum that carries also the factor for femaleness.

    Mendelism Reginald Crundall Punnett
  • For she knew that she had always her price of ransom—her femaleness.

    The Rainbow D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence
  • 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
  • Without Maleness, femaleness has no significance—no existence, in fact.

    Feminism and Sex-Extinction Arabella Kenealy
  • If the total dose of maleness exceeds the total dose of femaleness, the sex will be male, and vice versa.

    Taboo and Genetics Melvin Moses Knight, Iva Lowther Peters, and Phyllis Mary Blanchard
  • In the many books about women it is, naturally, their femaleness that has been studied and enlarged upon.

  • In her femaleness she felt a secret riches, a reserve, she had always the price of freedom.

    The Rainbow D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence
  • Sex—that is to say, maleness and femaleness—is present from the moment of birth, and in every act or deed of every child.

  • Let us accept, then, this sensitiveness both physical and psychical, as at least the natural character of femaleness.

    The Truth About Woman C. Gasquoine Hartley
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 woman: female charm
for or composed of women or girls: female 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 fitted: a female thread
  1. a female animal or plant
  2. (derogatory) a woman or girl
Derived Forms
femaleness, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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femaleness in Medicine

female fe·male (fē'māl')
Of, relating to, or denoting the sex that produces ova or bears young. n.

  1. A member of the sex that produces ova or bears young.

  2. A woman or girl.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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femaleness in Science
  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.

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

Noun  A female organism.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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