ef·​fete | \ e-ˈfēt How to pronounce effete (audio) , i-\

Definition of effete

1 : no longer fertile
2a : having lost character, vitality, or strength the effete monarchies … of feudal Europe— G. M. Trevelyan … macrophages that recycle used iron from effete red cells.— Nancy C. Andrews
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 sense 1 a good-humored, effete boy brought up by maiden aunts— Herman Wouk

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Other Words from effete

effetely adverb
effeteness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for effete



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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."

Examples of effete in a Sentence

effete members of the aristocracy the soft, effete society that marked the final years of the Roman empire
Recent Examples on the Web So at least Belichick has experience overcoming an effete ground game. BostonGlobe.com, "in Fort Foxborough this week, with offensive line alchemist Dante Scarnecchia lamenting the team’s rushing struggles.," 31 Oct. 2019 For you effete coastal residents who are unfamiliar with the delights of flyover country, DQ means Dairy Queen. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: ‘Texodus’ bodes badly for Republicans," 20 Oct. 2019 For you effete coastal residents who are unfamiliar with the delights of flyover country, DQ means Dairy Queen. George Will, National Review, "‘Texodus’ Bodes Badly for Republicans," 20 Oct. 2019 For you effete coastal residents who are unfamiliar with the delights of flyover country, DQ means Dairy Queen. George F. Will, The Denver Post, "Will: “Texodus” bodes badly for Republicans," 19 Oct. 2019 On the surface, a Pittman painting might seem to conjure effete mannerism. Los Angeles Times, "Love, sex, death and the language of painting: Lari Pittman on his Hammer retrospective," 13 Sep. 2019 The president’s recipe for political success is to appear more down-to-earth than his effete critics in the media, and so robustly transactional that his political rivals appear hypocritical by comparison. The Economist, "Why Stormy Daniels is so dangerous," 22 Mar. 2018 Her decision to decline the Genesis Award — and the vituperative reaction to that act of dissent — reflects the reality that the Israeli government is no longer interested in indulging the diaspora’s effete concern for the Palestinians’ welfare. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Natalie Portman and the Crisis of Liberal Zionism," 26 Apr. 2018 The American right believes in an all-powerful security state that doesn’t let effete concerns about civil liberties get in the way of serving justice and protecting the homeland. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "A Brief Guide to Every Five-Alarm Fire Currently Engulfing The White House," 1 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'effete.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of effete

1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for effete

Latin effetus, from ex- + fetus fruitful — more at feminine

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Last Updated

17 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for effete

The first known use of effete was in 1660

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More Definitions for effete


How to pronounce effete (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of effete

: lacking strength, courage, or spirit
: resembling a woman

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More from Merriam-Webster on effete

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for effete

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with effete

Spanish Central: Translation of effete

Nglish: Translation of effete for Spanish Speakers

Comments on effete

What made you want to look up effete? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to engage in dissolute behavior

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