Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Slang A person, especially a lesbian or a gay man, who exhibits stereotypical feminine traits, often in an exaggerated way.
  • noun Informal A woman or girl.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun See feme.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A woman. See feme, n.
  • noun A lady's maid; a chambermaid.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun archaic, rare A woman, a wife, particularly in heraldry.
  • noun slang, LGBT A feminine lesbian, and especially one who is attracted to masculine (or butch) lesbians.

Etymologies

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

[French, from Old French, from Latin fēmina; see feminine.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Used in Middle English, from Old French fame et al. The modern spelling is under the influence of Middle and Modern French femme.

Examples

  • As he began to introduce The Woman Men Yearn For, film critic Leonard Maltin suggested that it's time people stopped using the term "femme fatale" as their default for describing characters like those portrayed onscreen by Marlene Dietrich.

    George Heymont: The Myth of the Deadly Diva

  • As he began to introduce The Woman Men Yearn For, film critic Leonard Maltin suggested that it's time people stopped using the term "femme fatale" as their default for describing characters like those portrayed onscreen by Marlene Dietrich.

    George Heymont: The Myth of the Deadly Diva

  • As he began to introduce The Woman Men Yearn For, film critic Leonard Maltin suggested that it's time people stopped using the term "femme fatale" as their default for describing characters like those portrayed onscreen by Marlene Dietrich.

    George Heymont: The Myth of the Deadly Diva

  • But even still, the label "femme" was hoisted upon my shoulders shortly after coming out -- but only after I had convinced people that I wasn't bisexual, because apparently, a stereotypically feminine woman, if not straight, is probably bi.

    Sasha Lotrian: When You Realize You're a Lesbian

  • But even still, the label "femme" was hoisted upon my shoulders shortly after coming out -- but only after I had convinced people that I wasn't bisexual, because apparently, a stereotypically feminine woman, if not straight, is probably bi.

    Sasha Lotrian: When You Realize You're a Lesbian

  • But even still, the label "femme" was hoisted upon my shoulders shortly after coming out -- but only after I had convinced people that I wasn't bisexual, because apparently, a stereotypically feminine woman, if not straight, is probably bi.

    Sasha Lotrian: When You Realize You're a Lesbian

  • While I realize that the lesbian community uses the term femme to classify a particular type of lesbian, my blog won't only address lesbians.

    Archive 2009-04-01

  • While I realize that the lesbian community uses the term femme to classify a particular type of lesbian, my blog won't only address lesbians.

    Who Are Your Favorite Scandalous Women of Ill Repute?

  • But even still, the label "femme" was hoisted upon my shoulders shortly after coming out -- but only after I had convinced people that I wasn't bisexual, because apparently, a stereotypically feminine woman, if not straight, is probably bi.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • But even still, the label "femme" was hoisted upon my shoulders shortly after coming out -- but only after I had convinced people that I wasn't bisexual, because apparently, a stereotypically feminine woman, if not straight, is probably bi.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Comments

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  • Woman in french, but I hope some french Wordie(r) will help us with nuances...

    April 26, 2009

  • Or perhaps some lesbian Wordie-er. I believe this is a fairly old term among lesbians for a homosexual woman who is attracted to "butch" women (i.e. women who to some degree adopt or possess traditionally masculine gender attributes in manner and dress) but who herself acts and dresses in ways that are considered traditionally feminine. A related term, originating in the late 1980s or early 1990s, is "lipstick lesbian" but I think this has different, and more political, connotations.

    April 26, 2009

  • Yes, I agree--the two terms have vastly differing connotations, at least in this area of the United States. From what I understand, the terms "butch" and "femme" are still fairly widely used but their connotations have shifted over time as well.

    May 2, 2009

  • I probably hear this the most often as part of femme fatale.

    May 2, 2009