Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. with qualities thought to be typical of men, or connected with men

2. masculine nouns, pronouns, and adjectives have different forms from feminine or neuter words in some languages

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The adjective masculine is borrowed partly from French ‘masculin’ and partly from Latin ‘masculinus’. The word was first used in English, in the late 14th century, with the grammatical meaning. In the 15th century it started to be used to refer to male people and animals, while its use to mean manly or virile dates from the mid 16th century.


Every year on International Women’s Day (8 March) some people ask why there is an international day celebrating women and no equivalent for men. There is, and it’s today. International Men’s Day was started in 1992 by Thomas Oaster and then relaunched in 1999 by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, a doctor from Trinidad and Tobago, who chose the date of his father’s birthday. The purpose of the day is to celebrate positive male role models and to raise awareness of men’s issues. The main meaning of the adjective masculine is ‘relating to or typical of men’ and overwhelmingly the most common collocate is ‘feminine’. In this meaning masculine also collocates with nouns such as ‘archetype’, ‘ideal’, ‘trait’ and ‘identity’. Masculine is also used in linguistics to refer to the fact that nouns, adjectives and pronouns in some languages (though not English) have different forms from other nouns, adjectives and pronouns, which are referred to as feminine or neuter. Masculine has two related nouns, masculinity, which refers to the first meaning above, and masculine, which refers to the lingustics sense. The adverb ‘masculinely’ is rarely used. 


“The only really good artists are feminine. I can’t admit the existence of an artist whose dominant personality is masculine.”
(Orson Welles)

“There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.”
(Margaret Fuller)

Related words

male, manly, blokeish, macho

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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