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

Other Words from effete

effetely adverb
effeteness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for effete



  • undecadent
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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 The guns were symbols of outdoorsmanship, both rugged and effete. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2022 The former investment banker is attacked both by Le Pen and his critics to the left as an effete figure ruling for the rich, disconnected from the concerns of ordinary French workers. Washington Post, 7 Apr. 2022 Many West Pakistanis—particularly those in the military establishment—also regarded the Bengalis as racially inferior, dismissing them as effete and unmanly. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 18 Mar. 2022 Battling Butler: One of Buster Keaton’s biggest hits at the time, the silent film about a wealthy, effete young man who ends up forced to train as a boxer showcased Keaton’s signature physical humor as well as his ability as a director and editor. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Dec. 2021 The oppressive clouds of misogyny ever hovering over her protagonists not only menace Rose and the effete Peter, but force Phil, who has a Yale degree in classics, into near-parodic displays of rugged, working-class masculinity. Washington Post, 25 Dec. 2021 Francis is portrayed as snippy and effete, but his politics are more uncompromising than Bernie Sanders’. Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 2021 Haynes is an effete pop-nerd who imitates pop-culture precedents. Armond White, National Review, 15 Oct. 2021 Viewed from the south, San Francisco is a pretentious and prettified crackerbox of a city, foggy and filled with a bunch of weirdos and effete snobs. Los Angeles Times, 8 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Effete.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effete. Accessed 29 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on effete

Nglish: Translation of effete for Spanish Speakers


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