fe·​male | \ˈfē-ˌmāl \

Definition of female 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs In a field of milkweed, I watched a female monarch butterfly deposit a single egg on the underside of a leaf.— Tom Tyning A few months later, she became the highest paid female performer on the Great White Way.— Susannah McCorkle

(2) : having or producing only pistils or pistillate flowers a female holly female inflorescences

b : made up of usually adult members of the female sex : consisting of females the female workforce

c : characteristic of girls, women, or the female sex : exhibiting femaleness composed for female voices a female name

d : designed for or typically used by girls or women a female glove

e : engaged in or exercised by girls or women female suffrage

2 : having some quality (such as small size or delicacy of sound) associated with the female sex female castanets

3 : designed with a hollow or groove into which a corresponding male part fits the female coupling of a hose



Definition of female (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a female person : a woman or a girl

b : an individual of the sex that is typically capable of bearing young or producing eggs

2 : a pistillate plant

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from female


femaleness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for female

Synonyms: Adjective

feminine, womanish, womanlike, womanly

Synonyms: Noun

lady, skirt [slang], woman

Antonyms: Adjective

unfeminine, unwomanly

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

In the 14th century, female appeared in English with such spellings as femel, femelle, and female. The word comes from the Latin femella, meaning “young woman, girl,” which in turn is based on femina, meaning “woman.” In English, the similarity in form and sound between the words female and male led people to use only the female spelling. This closeness also led to the belief that female comes from or is somehow related to male. However, apart from the influence of male on the modern spelling of female, there is no link between the origins of the two words.

Examples of female in a Sentence


Most extension cords have a male plug on one end and a female plug on the other. female standards of housekeeping imposed by the women at the vacation cottage weren't especially popular with the men


She attended a school where there were more males than females. Females of this species weigh 8 to 10 pounds.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Pursuit’s current class of 144 is a 50 percent split between male and female fellows, 50 percent immigrants, 60 percent black or Hispanic, and the majority are on public assistance. Natt Garun, The Verge, "For Queens residents, Amazon’s HQ2 isn’t arriving without a fight," 20 Nov. 2018 She was elevated to Oregon’s first female Senate Majority Leader before running successfully for Secretary of State in 2008. Gillian Flaccus, The Seattle Times, "Oregon’s incumbent Democrat faces tight race for governor," 26 Oct. 2018 To launch the collaboration, the This Is Us star hosted a dinner celebrating women and the power of female friendship on Saturday night. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Mandy Moore On Feeling Empowered Through Fashion and the Women in Her Life," 24 Oct. 2018 In its current manifestation, Shirkers is a beguiling, stranger-than-fiction caper about youthful gumption, older-male coercion, and female friendship gone awry (Tan and Ng have never quite resolved their differences about the escapade). Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "Sandi Tan’s Shirkers May Be the Year’s Most Compelling Grifter Story," 15 Oct. 2018 Asparagus plants are monoecious — meaning each individual asparagus plant is either male or female. The Editors, Good Housekeeping, "How to Grow Garden-Fresh Asparagus," 19 Aug. 2018 Years after her departure, Meredith and Christina remain a beacon of powerful female friendship. Anna Millard, refinery29.com, "Ellen Pompeo’s Reaction To Sandra Oh’s Emmy Nom Has Grey’s Fans Celebrating," 14 July 2018 Simon is the fifth person to be criminally charged in the wake of Nassar’s convictions for molesting young female athletes under the guise of treatment. David Eggert, The Seattle Times, "Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar," 20 Nov. 2018 The New Jersey university's athletic dress code allegedly barred female student-athletes from wearing their sports bras as tops during practices and games. Amira Rasool, Teen Vogue, "A College Student Ended Her School’s Sexist Sports-Bra Ban With a Brilliant Essay," 13 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Below, read about them and the other remarkable females that comprise Glamour's 2018 Women of the Year, and head here to buy your tickets for our annual event celebrating these women in New York City. Glamour, "Meet the 2018 Glamour Women of the Year," 30 Oct. 2018 All animals were safely loaded into a van and taken to the Santa Maria Animal Center; the female later gave birth to one more puppy on the road and another after being checked into the center, for a total of 11 puppies. Meagan Fredette, Teen Vogue, "Puppies Found on a Weed Farm Are Very Chill, Officials Say," 5 Oct. 2018 After 8 generations, no females were being born at all. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Experiments Show 'Gene Drive' Technique Could Wipe Out Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes," 24 Sep. 2018 Police were also looking for the female who called 911, according to NBC affiliate KARE. Jacob Taylor /, NBC News, "Viral video of handcuffed black teens in Minneapolis sparks police investigation," 12 July 2018 Longhorned ticks are capable of spreading disease, and the females reproduce without a male, says the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "New ‘exotic’ tick invades NC, and it’s an ‘aggressive biter.’ How far has it spread?," 12 July 2018 An examination of the wolf's corpse by a Berlin wildlife research institute found that the young female had been fatally shot in the chest and then had a rope tied around her stomach and lashed to a concrete weight. Deutsche Welle, USA TODAY, "Wolf fatally shot, tied to weight and dumped in lake," 12 July 2018 Shout out to Sandra Oh for making history as the first Asian female ever to be nominated for an Emmy in a lead actress roll (for Killing Eve—just add to my must-watch list). Krystyna Chavez, Marie Claire, "Who Got an Emmy Nomination? Here's the Full List," 12 July 2018 These toxins suppress the whales' immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to disease, and can affect the females' ability to reproduce. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Pacific Northwest Orca Population Hits 30-Year-Low," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'female.' 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 female


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for female


Middle English, alteration of femel, femelle, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French femele, from Medieval Latin femella, from Latin, girl, diminutive of femina

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about female

Statistics for female

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for female

The first known use of female was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for female



English Language Learners Definition of female

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of or relating to the sex that can produce young or lay eggs

: characteristic of girls or women

: having members who are all girls or women



English Language Learners Definition of female (Entry 2 of 2)

: a woman or a girl : a female person

: an animal that can produce young or lay eggs : a female animal

: a plant that can produce seed or fruit : a female plant


fe·​male | \ˈfē-ˌmāl \

Kids Definition of female

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or being the sex that bears young or lays eggs

2 : having a pistil but no stamens a female plant

3 : of or characteristic of women or girls



Kids Definition of female (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a woman or a girl

2 : a person or animal that can bear young or lay eggs

3 : a plant with a pistil but no stamens


fe·​male | \ˈfē-ˌmāl \

Medical Definition of female 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: an individual that bears young or produces eggs as distinguished from one that produces sperm especially : a woman or girl as distinguished from a man or boy



Medical Definition of female (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being the sex that bears young or produces eggs

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on female

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with female

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for female

Spanish Central: Translation of female

Nglish: Translation of female for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of female for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about female

Comments on female

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


a knickknack or trinket

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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