Feminity vs. femininity

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| Grammarist

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Femininity is the standard form of the noun referring to behavior or qualities thought to be characteristic of females. Fiminity is an old variant, and some find it appealing because it is shorter and easier to say. Yet in modern English, it appears only very rarely, and femininity prevails by an overwhelming margin.

The ngram below graphs occurrence of the two forms in a large number of English-language texts published through the 20th century. As you can see, feminity barely registers against the longer form:



It’s possible to find a few scattered recent examples of feminity:

She proved that there is enormous strength in feminity. [The Daily Sound (article now offline)]

They are a mixture of playfulness, menace and wry feminity. [Bangkok Post]

But instances such as these are far more common:

Oh, don’t get me wrong: I love Rachel Comey’s femininity. [The New York Times]

By pluralizing the terms, we acknowledge that masculinity and femininity mean different things to different groups of people at different times. [The Gendered Society, Michael S. Kimmel]

As they say in the film, banking is such an alpha-male society and it’s very hard for women to succeed within it and yet maintain some sense of femininity. [The Guardian]

Gender is a body technique par excellence: both femininity and masculinity are highly contrived and arbitrary cultural constructs. [Fashion: The Key Concepts, Jennifer Craik]

Where last season’s focus was on 1950s femininity, now designers are mining the 1970s. [New Zealand Herald]

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