ef·​fete i-ˈfēt How to pronounce effete (audio)
: no longer fertile
: having lost character, vitality, or strength
the effete monarchies … of feudal EuropeG. M. Trevelyan
… macrophages that recycle used iron from effete red cells.Nancy C. Andrews
: marked by weakness or decadence
the effete East
: soft or delicate from or as if from a pampered existence
peddled … trendy tweeds to effete EasternersWilliam Helmer
effete tenderfeet
also : characteristic of an effete person
a wool scarf … a bit effete on an outdoorsman Nelson Bryant
: effeminate sense 1
a good-humored, effete boy brought up by maiden auntsHerman Wouk
effetely adverb
effeteness noun

Did you know?

Effete derives from Latin effetus, meaning "no longer fruitful," and for a brief time in English it was used to describe an animal no longer capable of producing offspring. For most of its existence in English, however, the use of "effete" has been entirely figurative. For many years, the usual figurative sense of the word was "exhausted" or "worn out," but today "effete" is more likely to suggest overrefinement, weakness of character, snobbery, and effeminacy. "Effete" first showed signs of acquiring these shades of meaning in the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1940s that the new "effete" clearly established itself in reputable writing. One example can be found in John Steinbeck's 1945 novel Cannery Row: "now and then some effete customer would order a stinger or an anisette."

Examples of effete in a Sentence

effete members of the aristocracy the soft, effete society that marked the final years of the Roman empire
Recent Examples on the Web And for centuries the fork remained suspect in Europe, as the effete accessory of aristocrats; as late as the 17th century, Louis XIV, amid the pomp of Versailles, is said to have insisted on grabbing food — off a gold plate — with his fingers. Ligaya Mishan Kyoko Hamada, New York Times, 18 Feb. 2024 Michael Urie lends an elastic face and sing-songy intonations to Sir Robin, and Ethan Slater’s dexterous physical humor, as a French mime, an effete prince and a naked puppeteer, is always welcome. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 17 Nov. 2023 Perfetti gives him an effete contemporaneity, but the character needs new lines more than a new look. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2023 The once-nerdy kid has become a blue-collar first responder just like grandfather Martin, and has nothing in common with his snobbish, effete father. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 9 Oct. 2023 Once again, there are the effete snobs and the salt-of-the-earth people who tolerate them. TIME, 9 Oct. 2023 Garden gazing balls by Sula Bermúdez-Silverman are grasped by the upright claws of an imperial eagle, the spheres filled with homey substances like hair gel and studded with effete fragments of colonial treasure — bits of coral or silver sugar tongs. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 3 Oct. 2023 But with the advent of the Great Depression and World War II, his urbane, effete mannequins fell out of favor. Dan Avery, NBC News, 7 June 2023 As the effete mentor to Wayne in the film's first half, Neeson nicely toys with the audience without tipping his hand. Declan Gallagher, EW.com, 17 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin effetus, from ex- + fetus fruitful — more at feminine

First Known Use

1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of effete was in 1660


Dictionary Entries Near effete

Cite this Entry

“Effete.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effete. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ef·​fete e-ˈfēt How to pronounce effete (audio)
: no longer productive
: having lost strength, courage, or spirit : decadent
effete snobs
effetely adverb
effeteness noun

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