Virility

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Etymology

Middle French or Latin; Middle French viril, from Latin virilis, from vir man, male; akin to Old English & Old High German wer man, Sanskrit vīra

Definitions

b : having traditionally masculine traits especially to a marked degree
  • 4 : masterful, forceful

Description

Virility refers to any of a wide range of masculine characteristics viewed positively. It is not applicable to women or to negative characteristics. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED1) says virile is "marked by strength or force." Virility is commonly associated with vigour, health, sturdiness, and constitution, especially in the fathering of children. In this last sense, virility is to men as fertility is to women. OED1 also notes that virile has become obsolete in referring to a "nubile" young woman — "a maide that is Mariageable or ripe for a Husband, or Virill." Historically, masculine attributes such as beard growth have been seen as signs of virility and leadership. (for example in ancient Egypt and Greece)

As a term for positive reference, virility does not accord with feminisms that put forward various deconstructions of masculinity. According to these points of view, virility is redefined as an outdated abstraction, impacting negatively on women via unwanted sexual activity, and unwanted pregnancies.