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 \ -​s(ə-​)nish How to pronounce vixenish (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

In pop culture, especially black women with a body like mine, they’re often portrayed as video vixens. Julyssa Lopez, Allure, "American Airlines Is Under Fire for Making a Woman Cover Her “Inappropriate” Romper With a Blanket," 11 July 2019 For once, women whom mainstream society habitually ignored were being represented in pop culture as individuals with virtues and flaws, rather than as a monolithic mass of degenerates or vixens. Time, "Orange Is the New Black Is the Decade's Most Important Show," 22 July 2019 In pop culture, especially black women with a body like mine, they’re often portrayed as video vixens. Neil Vigdor,, "Woman required to cover up on American Airlines flight says race was a factor," 10 July 2019 The Hadid sisters have always maintained their respective beauty signatures: Gigi is the sandy blonde with an easygoing Californian spirit, and Bella, Vogue’s current digital cover star, is the brunette vixen with the cool streetwear style. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Bella Hadid Goes Back to Dirty Blonde With a Transformative Dye Job," 25 Mar. 2019 But maybe these women aren’t evil vixens or cold-hearted harpies. Andrea Bartz, Marie Claire, "Sometimes I Exploit My Sexuality and I'm Not Sorry," 25 Feb. 2019 The ethereal boho queen of Coachella — think fringe, cutoff denim shorts and that old-school Stevie Nicks look — has been joined by some saucy Coachella vixens fit for our extreme political era. Marques Harper,, "Less boho chic, more streetwear style on the Coachella fashion scene for 2018," 15 Apr. 2018 Rather than skewing entirely romantic, EmRata brought a bit of characteristic summer-ready vixen into the mix, a dusting of bronze between long lashes and power brow for added warmth. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Emily Ratajkowski Shows Off Her Summer-Ready Skin in Los Angeles," 24 May 2018 But Deanna turns from annoyingly school-spirited mom to confident middle-aged vixen, and not even overnight. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Review: Melissa McCarthy's C-grade college comedy 'Life of the Party' is a Greek tragedy," 10 May 2018

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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Statistics for vixen

Last Updated

11 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for vixen

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

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More Definitions for vixen



English Language Learners Definition of vixen

: a female fox
old-fashioned : an angry and unpleasant woman
informal : a sexually attractive woman


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

Kids Definition of vixen

: a female fox

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More from Merriam-Webster on vixen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vixen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vixen

Spanish Central: Translation of vixen

Nglish: Translation of vixen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vixen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on vixen

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recurring in steady succession

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