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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from effete

effetely adverb
effeteness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for effete



  • undecadent
Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Former president Donald Trump made a point of elevating his own unhealthy eating habits to be the stuff of real Americans, while consigning healthy eating to being a preoccupation of effete elites. Washington Post, "Biden’s climate change plan may not nix cheeseburgers, but science says beef should be on the chopping block," 26 Apr. 2021 The Nero meme leaves the impression of an effete dilettante, confident in his own genius only because nobody had the guts to tell him otherwise. Gaia Squarci, Smithsonian Magazine, "The New, Nicer Nero," 18 Sep. 2020 Who will say that Church, State, Throne, Altar are not in danger: that the sacred Strongbox itself, last Palladium of an effete Humanity, may not be blasphemously blown open, and its padlocks undone? John D. Hagen, National Review, "The Gospel of Jean-Jacques," 20 Aug. 2020 Zimmer is an effete, hapless bozo, which lets Mr Carell put pathos and need front and centre. The Economist, "The usual suspects “Irresistible” goes where many films have gone before," 25 June 2020 Even effete artists have to track inventory and control labor costs. Michael Taylor, ExpressNews.com, "Liberty Bar owner in the age of coronavirus: ‘I feel like the tail struggling to wag the dog’," 12 June 2020 The early part of the film, filled with Elliott’s effete insults, simpering and whining, doesn’t establish an endearing mood. oregonlive, "The best worst movie? Many film lovers choose ‘Showgirls,’ but Patrick Swayze’s oeuvre offers contenders," 27 Mar. 2020 Usually interpreted as a mannerism of effete tea-drinkers, the pointed pinky is actually a threat aimed at gays, who were forced to wear pink triangles by the Nazis. James Lileks, National Review, "Okay Stupid," 19 Dec. 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about effete

Listen to Our Podcast about effete

Statistics for effete

Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Effete.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effete. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for effete



English Language Learners Definition of effete

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

More from Merriam-Webster on effete

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!