vix·​en | \ ˈvik-sən How to pronounce vixen (audio) \

Definition of vixen

1 : a female fox
2 : a shrewish, ill-tempered woman When Arabella called her a treacherous vixen and a heartless, profligate hussy, she spoke out freely, and said that she wasn't going to be abused.— Anthony Trollope
3 informal : a sexually attractive woman In this spy spoof, our hero, aided by a sexy vixen, … saves the world from a power-mad despot …— Steven Rebello

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Other Words from vixen

vixenish \ ˈvik-​s(ə-​)nish How to pronounce vixen (audio) \ adjective

Vixens and Foxes

Vixen literally refers to a female fox, but it has two very distinctive extended meanings: “a shrew” and “a sexy woman.” How is it that the word took such semantically divergent paths?

The “combative, bad-tempered woman” sense has a very long history in our language, going back as far as the 16th century and extending well into the 20th. It may be found in Shakespeare and Swift as well as in latter-day descriptions of mothers-in-law and the names of gun boats. By mid-century, however, vixen begins to be used of glamorous and attractive women. Perhaps its application to female characters who combined combative and seductive qualities led to the word's reinterpretation. Or perhaps it was influenced by fox, another term for an attractive young woman that made its appearance in English around this time.

Examples of vixen in a Sentence

why anyone puts up with that vixen's sharp tongue is beyond me
Recent Examples on the Web The blue-haired vixen seems indestructible as her music career soars. Heran Mamo, Billboard, 9 Aug. 2021 No discussion about Black women’s body image issues in the early 2000s would be complete without discussing the video vixen (as New Yorker writer Doreen St. Félix pointed out). Jess Sims, Harper's BAZAAR, 21 July 2021 Currently, Fox’s vixen look fits right into the world of No Sudden Move. Liana Satenstei, Vogue, 1 July 2021 While stationed there as a civilian instructor, her father sent stories home about capturing a vixen and trying to train it, about camping on the steppe, about a night spent drinking with visiting geologists. Sophie Pinkham, Harper's Magazine, 25 May 2021 The Cohens' neighbors include Kirsten's ex, Jimmy Cooper (Tate Donovan), a scheming stock broker/money manager, and his wife, shallow vixen Julie, played by Clarke. Erin Jensen, USA TODAY, 27 Apr. 2021 That role was awarded to the Italian actor Matilda De Angelis, whose portrayal of the Latina vixen-victim Elena Alves humanizes the chalk outline of a character. Eve Gerber, The Atlantic, 2 Dec. 2020 On this evening, the vixen arrived with a barnacle goose. Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 14 Oct. 2020 Hood was a fox; Little John a bear; Friar Tuck a badger; Prince John a thumb-sucking lion; the sheriff of Nottingham a wolf; and Maid Marian a vixen. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Apr. 2020

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vixen

Middle English (southern dialect) *vixen, alteration of Middle English fixen, from Old English fyxe, feminine of fox

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Time Traveler for vixen

Time Traveler

The first known use of vixen was in the 15th century

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Statistics for vixen

Last Updated

13 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vixen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for vixen



English Language Learners Definition of vixen

: a female fox
: an angry and unpleasant woman : shrew
: a sexually attractive woman


vix·​en | \ ˈvik-sən How to pronounce vixen (audio) \

Kids Definition of vixen

: a female fox

More from Merriam-Webster on vixen

Nglish: Translation of vixen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vixen for Arabic Speakers


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