Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A woman regarded as noisy, scolding, or domineering.
  • n. A large, strong, courageous woman.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Given to undue belligerence or ill manner at the slightest provocation; a shrew, a termagant
  • n. scolding, domineering, highly opinionated; a fishwife, a nag
  • n. rough, loud, and aggressive
  • adj. pertaining to a virago

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage; a woman who has the robust body and masculine mind of a man; a female warrior.
  • n. Hence, a mannish woman; a bold, turbulent woman; a termagant; a vixen.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage; a woman who has the robust body and masculine mind of a man; a female warrior.
  • n. Hence A bold, impudent, turbulent woman; a termagant: now the usual meaning.
  • n. [capitalized] [NL. (A. Newton, 1871).] A genus of Anatinæ: so called because the female has a peculiarity of the windpipe usually found only in male ducks. The species is V. punctata (or castanea) of Australia.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a large strong and aggressive woman
  • n. a noisy or scolding or domineering woman

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Latin virāgō, from vir, man; see wī-ro- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin virago ("warlike or heroic woman").

Examples

  • Calvin uses the word virissa; Dathe, after Le Clerc, the word vira; and though neither of them are strictly classical, yet are they far preferable to the term virago in the Vulgate, which Calvin justly rejects, and which means a woman of masculine character.

    Commentary on Genesis - Volume 1

  • This other Pallas — the word itself can be accented to have a feminine or masculine meaning in our language, but here it is close to the Latin word virago, which means ‘strong virgin’ — had been killed in a sham fight with Athena.

    Ilium

  • Which then said: This is now a bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; and Adam gave her a name like as her lord, and said she should be called virago, which is as much as to say as made of a man, and is a name taken of a man.

    The Golden Legend, vol. 1

  • Anne Royall 1769 – 1854 a hero of feminism… but in her day… she was “called a virago and a monomaniac” - now that such things are “normalized” we can celebrate her without a concern.

    Prager on the 2010 election

  • She was, he tells us, as indeed she had been in the preceding feudal centuries, often what we should nowadays call a virago, of violent temperament, with vivid passions, broken in from childhood to all physical exercises, sharing the pleasures and dangers of the knights around her.

    On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue

  • Randle Holme says that a sleeve thus tied in at the elbow was called a virago sleeve.

    Customs and Fashions in Old New England

  • As for "virago", it may be male in Shakespeare, but it was female all the way back to Plautus.

    languagehat.com: TERMAGANT.

  • "Well, did you get it?" one of them, apparently the "virago" herself, asked abruptly.

    The Chorus Girl and Other Stories

  • He believed her to be simply a vulgar, interfering, brazen-faced virago.

    A dollop from Trollope | clusterflock

  • “An actual emanation from Satan, sent to those parts to devour souls” will trump “a vulgar, interfering, brazen-faced virago” every time.

    A dollop from Trollope | clusterflock

Comments

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  • See comments at viraginity.

    August 3, 2015

  • "'Termagant' he moaned after her. 'Shrew! Harridan! Alright, alright, you win, you, you...uh...virago, you spitfire." From Perdido Street Station by China Meiville.

    September 18, 2011

  • "'And is he? He has the gall to tell this virago Debbie that Sookie is good in bed.'" -Club Dead, by Charlaine Harris

    February 5, 2011

  • Not to worry, virago. I think the older meaning is something like "a woman of strength or spirit." As John explained (somewhere here), the definition that pops up near the word is its most common usage. Don't know offhand how or when it shifted from one meaning to the other, though.

    It's a nice handle, I think. :-)

    November 4, 2007

  • Hmm. I always understood it to mean maiden warrior. I guess need to do more research - and perhaps change my handle.

    November 3, 2007

  • "A hoarse virago retorts."

    Joyce, Ulysses, 15

    January 28, 2007