To be epicene is to be androgynous, or projecting characteristics of both sexes. For both men and women, it is a melding of the two into an ambiguous sexual identity.

The roots of epicene derive from the Greek epikoinos meant "common to many," and later the Latin epicoenus, meaning "of both genders." Both lay the groundwork for the word, which refers to displaying characteristics of both genders. T.S. Eliot once wrote, "Along the garden-wall the bees/With hairy bellies pass between/The staminate and pistillate/Blest office of the epicene," referring in this poem to the shared sexual characteristics in a single flower as epicene — an apt example of the word.

Definitions of epicene
  1. adjective
    having an ambiguous sexual identity
    synonyms: bisexual
    having both male and female characteristics
  2. adjective
    having unsuitable feminine qualities
    synonyms: cissy, effeminate, emasculate, sissified, sissy, sissyish
    unmanful, unmanlike, unmanly
    not possessing qualities befitting a man
  3. noun
    one having both male and female sexual characteristics and organs; at birth an unambiguous assignment of male or female cannot be made
    synonyms: androgyne, epicene person, gynandromorph, hermaphrodite, intersex
    see moresee less
    type of:
    bisexual, bisexual person
    a person who is sexually attracted to both sexes
Commonly confused words

"Aladdin" Jafar Styled for Broadway as "Epicene Menace"

New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood describes Jonathan Freeman's Jafar in Broadway's new Aladdin as an "epicene menace."

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