effete

adjective
ef·fete | \ e-ˈfēt , 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

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 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 Himself a product of a genteel and privileged New York background — his father, William Shawn, edited The New Yorker for decades — Shawn’s most potent and poisonous theatrical barbs tended to be aimed at effete, refined liberals. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Wallace Shawn’s Late Night," 17 Jan. 2018 The film, which opens Friday, centers on a caveman named Dug and his Stone Age tribe, whose peaceful existence is threatened by effete Bronze Age warriors with Monty Python French accents. Charles Solomon, latimes.com, "Nick Park is back in the stop-motion animation game with 'Early Man'," 14 Feb. 2018 Given that few people who are not effete, refined liberals go to the theater in contemporary America, this was an alienating strategy. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Wallace Shawn’s Late Night," 17 Jan. 2018 If Chuck in South Orange wants his red meat, then who are those effete Times editors to serve him veggie wraps? Will Oremus, Slate Magazine, "How Liz Spayd is squandering the most important watchdog job in journalism.," 14 Apr. 2017 Will and Grace were a couple entangled in every sense but the romantic one, surrounded by their scene-stealing sidekicks, effete and bitchy Jack (Sean Hayes) and soused and bitchy Karen (Megan Mullally). Willa Paskin, Slate Magazine, "Because now it’s a sharp comedy about white, moneyed, liberal hypocrisy.," 28 Sep. 2017

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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The first known use of effete was in 1660

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More Definitions for effete

effete

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of effete

: lacking strength, courage, or spirit

: resembling a woman

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