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Epicene is an adjective (sometimes substantive) for loss of gender distinction, often specific loss of masculinity. It includes:


Epicene derives via Latin epicœnus from Greek epikoinos (επικοινός, common to), literally epi (επί, upon) and koinos (κοινός, common).


The word epicene is placed in bold type in the following examples.

  • "In a garage band of my own, I sported the longer hair and cross-cutting fashions of the epicene trend."

— Regis Nicoll. 'Is Gender Just a State of Mind?' In Salvo Magazine 2 (2007): 42-47.

  • of Harvey Wright: "He is best known for the sign he displayed in his shop addressed to 'epicene women', advising them to stay at home and not trouble themselves with affairs of the world best left to men."

— Bill Cooke. 'Thoughts and Comments'. In The Open Society 78 (2005): 21.

  • of Jude Law: "He has a clear-eyed, epicene handsomeness — cruel, sensuous mouth; cheekbones to cut your heart on — the sort of excessive beauty that is best appreciated in repose on a 50-foot screen."

— Franz Lidz. 'Summer Films/Rising Stars: He Didn't Turn Out Obscure at All'. New York Times, 13 May 2001.

  • "She smothers (almost literally at times) her weak, epicene son Vladimir, and is prepared to commit any crime to see him become Tsar, despite his reluctance."

— Ronald Bergan. Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict. Overlook Hardcover, 1999.

  • "Society shall be converted into an epicene institution."

Almroth E Wright. The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage. New York: Paul B Hoeber, 1913.

  • "Who is this New Woman, this epicene creature, this Gorgon set up by the snarly who impute to her the faults of both sexes while denying her the charm of either — where is she to be found if she exists at all?"

Sarah Grand. 'The New Woman and the Old'. Lady's Realm (1898): 466.

  • of emancipated woman: "[a] dulled a spiritless epicene automaton."

Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen. 'Plain Words on the Woman Question'. In Fortnightly Review 52 (1889): 448-458.

Specialized uses

In linguistics, the adjective "epicene" is used to describe a word that has only one form for both male and female referents.[3] In English, for example, the words "assassin" and "violinist" can refer to either a man or a woman. In languages with grammatical gender, the term "epicene" can be used in two distinct situations:

  • The same noun can refer to both males and females while keeping the same grammatical gender. For example, in New Testament Greek, parthenos (παρθένος, "virgin") is a feminine noun, but it can also be used to refer to a man.[4]
  • A noun or adjective has identical masculine and feminine forms. For example, in French, the noun enfant "child" and the adjective espiègle "mischievous" can be either masculine or feminine:
un enfant espiègle "a mischievous male child"
une enfant espiègle "a mischievous female child"

See also


  1. 'Epicene'. In Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. 1913.
  2. Ibid.
  3. 'Epicene'. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
  4. JW Wenham. The Elements of New Testament Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965, p. 169.

External links