muliebrity -- This word is pronounced myoo-lee-eb-ri-tee and means "womanhood" or "femininity."
According to Merriam-Webster.com, "Muliebrity has been used in English to suggest the distinguishing character or qualities of a woman or of womankind since the 16th century. (Its masculine counterpart, 'virility,' entered the language at about the same time.) 'Muliebrity' comes from Latin mulier, meaning 'woman,' and probably is a cognate of Latin mollis, meaning 'soft.' 'Mollis' is also the source of the English verb 'mollify'-a word that implies a 'softening' of hurt feelings or anger."
I wonder why muliebrity has fallen out of use, as have the other words I featured this month – sistren, maritorious, misandry and sororal? Is the question important? What do such changes say about people's lives through time? Since language does certainly reflect what we experience, value and talk about, what does the general disappearance of these words say about English speakers, at least?
One of the things I enjoy about language is its flexibility. It is a vital tool we humans use to strengthen and deepen two of our primal needs – to belong and, through belonging, to survive. Therefore, words and expressions move into common use because they fit (and shape) the attitudes and experiences of a given time and place. They move out of common use because they do so less and less.
And, so, my March exploration into mostly defunct English words relating to women has been interesting to me because it has raised a few questions and has also brought to my attention some of my own reactions to these words and their almost total disappearance. Writing about these words has also reminded me that I am in control of the words I use and the thinking and beliefs from which they arise.
"I wonder why muliebrity has fallen out of use, as have the other words I featured this month – sistren, maritorious, misandry and sororal?"ReplyDelete
Will you take this question further Kate and explore the issue of gender and language? Also, there is a site that might interest you: World Wide Words (michael.quinion@WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Good idea, Ann. I will certainly look at the site you recommend. Thanks!ReplyDelete