Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


looking or behaving like a young girl

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The adjective girlish is formed from the adjective ‘girl’ plus the suffix ‘-ish’. It has been in use since the 16th century.


Yesterday was International Day of the Girl, an occasion to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. We wrote about ‘girl’ last year, so what about the related adjective girlish? It is formed, obviously, from the noun ‘girl’ plus the suffix ‘-ish‘, one of whose functions is to make adjectives describing a quality that someone or something has: an impish grin; childish behaviour. The connotations of girlish are generally positive. Many of the most frequent collocations of girlish refer to vocal behaviour of an exuberant kind: girlish giggles, squeals, shrieks, screams and laughter; we also have glee, playfulness and mischief. The very similar adjective ‘girly’ behaves rather differently; I will look at that in a later post.


Jan French as ‘Yum-Yum’, Christine Eastwood as ‘Pitti-Sing’ and Catharine Leach as ‘Peep-Bo’ performed with girlish glee and energy.
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As pre-teens, sleepovers meant girlish laughter punctuated by popcorn and junk food.”
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Related words

boyish, childish, womanly, manly

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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