is a 17c word originally meaning ‘worn out by bearing offspring’ (from Latin fetus) with reference to animals. It rapidly developed the transferred meaning ‘(of a material substance) that has lost its special quality or virtue’, and by the late 18c was being applied to persons or systems that had lost their effectiveness. In the 20c it has come to be applied to effeminate men, though not, despite its etymology, to women who are or look as if they are past child-bearing age:

• ‘Do you mind if I sit down?’ asked the young man in effete, accented English —R. Kee, 1991.

It is still commonly used of ineffective institutions:

• Mollycoddled, pampered by modern mores, man is becoming effete, though not totally emasculated —Herald (Glasgow), 2001.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Effete — Ef*fete , a. [L. effetus that has brought forth, exhausted; ex + fetus that has brought forth. See {Fetus}.] No longer capable of producing young, as an animal, or fruit, as the earth; hence, worn out with age; exhausted of energy; incapable of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • effete — [adj1] spoiled, exhausted burnt out*, corrupt, debased, decadent, decayed, declining, decrepit, degenerate, dissipated, dissolute, drained, enervated, enfeebled, far gone*, feeble, immoral, obsolete, overrefined, overripe, played out*, soft,… …   New thesaurus

  • effete — index decadent, ineffective, ineffectual, otiose, powerless, stale, unproductive Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton …   Law dictionary

  • effete — 1620s, from L. effetus (usually in fem. effeta) exhausted, unproductive, worn out (with bearing offspring), past bearing, lit. that has given birth, from a lost verb, *efferi, from ex out (see EX (Cf. ex )) + fetus childbearing, offspring (see… …   Etymology dictionary

  • effete — ► ADJECTIVE 1) affected, over refined, and ineffectual. 2) having lost vitality; worn out. DERIVATIVES effetely adverb effeteness noun. ORIGIN Latin effetus worn out by bearing young ; related to FETUS(Cf. ↑fetus) …   English terms dictionary

  • effete — [e fēt′, ifēt′] adj. [L effetus, that has brought forth offspring, exhausted < ex , out + fetus, productive: for IE base see FEMALE] 1. no longer capable of producing; spent and sterile 2. lacking vigor, force of character, moral stamina,… …   English World dictionary

  • effete — adjective Etymology: Latin effetus, from ex + fetus fruitful more at feminine Date: 1660 1. no longer fertile 2. a. having lost character, vitality, or strength < the effete monarchies…of feudal Europe G. M. Trevelyan > b. marked by weakness or… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • effete — adjective 1) effete trendies Syn: affected, pretentious, precious, mannered, overrefined; ineffectual; informal la di da Ant: unpretentious 2) an effete young man Syn: effeminate …   Thesaurus of popular words

  • effete — effetely, adv. effeteness, n. /i feet /, adj. 1. lacking in wholesome vigor; degenerate; decadent: an effete, overrefined society. 2. exhausted of vigor or energy; worn out: an effete political force. 3. unable to produce; sterile. [1615 25; < L… …   Universalium

  • effete — ef|fete [ıˈfi:t US e ] adj formal [Date: 1600 1700; : Latin; Origin: effetus, from fetus producing young ] 1.) weak and powerless in a way that you dislike ▪ an attack against effete intellectuals 2.) an effete man looks or behaves like a woman …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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