A virago is a pejorative word for a woman of great stature, strength and courage who is also domineering, often violent, and bad-tempered.

The term was derived from the Latin virago meaning ‘warlike women’, from the Latin vir meaning ‘man’. In the Vulgate bible, the term was used by Adam to describe Eve.

Curiously, the Middle English 14th century poem Cursor Mundi retains this Latin name for ‘woman’ in its otherwise Middle English account of the creation:

‘Quen sco was broght be-for adam, Virago he gaf her to nam; þar for hight sco virago, ffor maked of the man was sco.’ – lines 631–634
(When she was brought before Adam, Virago was the name he gave to her; Therefore she is called Virago, For she was made out of the man.)

The meaning of the term virago according to Urban Dictionary is, like all definitions on UD, curious yet amusing, and therefore worthy of attention:

‘A term referring to a woman who is manly in character but not necessarily appearance. A woman who steps out of the domestic role and sometimes oversteps her boundaries as a woman. She never takes shit from a man and always holds her own. She keeps a man from walking all over her and she never, EVER, downplays her importance in order to charm a man.’

Also, according to Urban Dictionary, related terms include: shrew; amazon, after the society of female warriors in Greek mythology; harridan, perhaps a modification of the French haridelle meaning ‘old horse, nag; vixen; fishwife; harpy; and xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, who according to Antisthenes, was “the hardest to get along with of all the women there are”. It is written that she once emptied a chamber pot over Socrates’ head.


4 thoughts on “Virago

  1. Which likely explains why he so willingly swilled the hemlock.

  2. Socrates, as you doubtless know, was sentenced to die by drinking a cup of poison hemlock, which he did, willingly – I’m saying that the fact that his wife was, “the hardest to get along with of all the women there are,” may well have been instrumental in his willingness..

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