. 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