• muliebrity •
Pronunciation: myu-lee-eb-brê-tee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Womanhood, womanliness, femininity, the state of being a woman or behaving in ways considered typical of a woman. The antonym of virility.
Notes: Today's Good Word is used rarely but remains available to daring spirits who love to speak in mystic tongues. It is based on a word that has taken an odd turn, mulier "legitimate, in wedlock". A mulier offspring (or just a mulier) is a legitimate child according to ecclesiastical law. Today's good word comes with an adjective mulierbral.
In Play: Of course, different people have different concepts of what is womanly: "Maude Lynn Dresser associates muliebrity with heavy makeup and outlandish clothing and, as a result, she looks rather like a tart." I associate this word with slightly old-fashioned concepts of womanhood: "I find Barb Dwyer a bit lacking in muliebrity: she much prefers climbing mountains to crocheting or embroidery."
Word History: Today's Good Word applies to all women (and men who behave like women) whether they are stubborn or not because it has nothing to do with mules. It comes from Latin muliebritas "womanhood". Muliebritas was built upon muliebris "womanly", in turn, from mulier "woman". How Latin came by mulier is one of the great mysteries of Indo-European languages. We find no trace of outside Romance languages. This is usually a sign that it came from the non-Indo-European peoples who inhabited the Rome area before the Romans arrived. It has, however, spread throughout the Romance languages, for we find variants of it in Portuguese mulher, Spanish mujer and Romanian muiere "woman, wife", and Italian moglie "wife".
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