Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
January 21st, 2016
Episode 430 of 795 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 21, 2016 is: effete \ih-FEET\ adjective 1 : no longer fertile 2 a : having lost character, vitality, or strength b : marked by weakness or decadence c : soft or delicate from or as if from a pampered existence 3 : having feminine qualities untypical of a man: not manly in appearance or manner Examples: "Virginia Woolf is often depicted as a dreamy, effete snob, agonizing all day over a single adjective while sipping tea…." — Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune, 2 Nov. 2008 "Working-class voters in particular have felt marginalized by a Republican Party that has pushedeffetecandidates and a Democratic Party that has moved to the left and abandoned their concerns." — The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, 13 Dec. 2015 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. The usual figurative sense of the word was for many years "exhausted" or "worn out." But since at least the beginning of the 20th century, effete has also been used to suggest overrefinement, weakness of character, snobbery, and effeminacy. It's these meanings you're most likely to encounter today.