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

Definition of virago

1 : a loud overbearing woman : termagant
2 : a woman of great stature, strength, and courage

Other Words from virago

viraginous \ və-​ˈra-​jə-​nəs How to pronounce virago (audio) \ 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 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 example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'virago.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of virago

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for virago

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Virago.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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