virago

noun

vi·​ra·​go və-ˈrä-(ˌ)gō How to pronounce virago (audio) -ˈrā- How to pronounce virago (audio)
ˈvir-ə-ˌgō
plural viragoes or viragos
1
: a loud overbearing woman : termagant
2
: a woman of great stature, strength, and courage
viraginous adjective

Did you know?

The original Latin meaning of virago was "female warrior". But in later centuries the meaning shifted toward the negative. The most famous virago in English literature is the ferocious Kate in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Some historical viragoes have also become famous. Agrippina poisoned her husband, the Emperor Claudius, so that her son Nero could take his place (but it was Nero himself who eventually had her assassinated). And Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, a powerful virago of the 12th century, was imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II of England, after she encouraged their sons to rebel against him. Today some people are beginning to use virago admiringly again.

Examples of virago in a Sentence

fairy tales that typically portray stepmothers as viragoes
Recent Examples on the Web Skin is important here, not just its color but its texture as Josephine, for example, goes from elegant sophisticate to sweaty, sunburned, frizzy virago increasingly swollen with pregnancy and angry mosquito bites. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 25 Aug. 2023 Meredith is a stereotypical virago updated with modern libertarian notions. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 5 July 2023 Despite the work’s title, Dejanira is the one who dominates the action, evolving through seven arias from impatient wife to imperious virago to despairing murderer. Christopher Corwin, New York Times, 20 Feb. 2020 Their mother, Lucy, who had abandoned the family for a freer life and left the children with her husband, is a raging virago crushed by guilt (Mamie Gummer in an impressive performance). Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, 10 Jan. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'virago.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Latin viragin-, virago, from vir man — more at virile

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of virago was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near virago

Cite this Entry

“Virago.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/virago. Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

virago

noun
vi·​ra·​go və-ˈräg-ō How to pronounce virago (audio) -ˈrāg- How to pronounce virago (audio)
ˈvir-ə-ˌgō
plural viragoes or viragos
: a scolding quarrelsome woman
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