Simple Definition of effete
: lacking strength, courage, or spirit
: resembling a woman
Full Definition of effete
1 : no longer fertile
2 a : having lost character, vitality, or strength <the effete monarchies … of feudal Europe — G. M. Trevelyan> b : marked by weakness or decadence <the effete East> c : soft or delicate from or as if from a pampered existence <peddled … trendy tweeds to effete Easterners — William Helmer> <effete tenderfeet>; also : characteristic of an effete person <a wool scarf … a bit effete on an outdoorsman — Nelson Bryant>
3 : effeminate 1 <a good-humored, effete boy brought up by maiden aunts — Herman Wouk>
Examples of effete in a sentence
effete members of the aristocracy
<the soft, effete society that marked the final years of the Roman empire>
Did You Know?
Effete derives from Latin effetus, meaning "no longer fruitful," and for a brief time in English it was used to describe an animal no longer capable of producing offspring. For most of its existence in English, however, the use of "effete" has been entirely figurative. For many years, the usual figurative sense of the word was "exhausted" or "worn out," but today "effete" is more likely to suggest overrefinement, weakness of character, snobbery, and effeminacy. "Effete" first showed signs of acquiring these shades of meaning in the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1940s that the new "effete" clearly established itself in reputable writing. One example can be found in John Steinbeck's 1945 novel Cannery Row: "now and then some effete customer would order a stinger or an anisette."
Origin and Etymology of effete
Latin effetus, from ex- + fetus fruitful — more at feminine
First Known Use: 1660
Seen and Heard
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