unmanly (comparative unmanlier, superlative unmanliest)

  1. (of a person) Showing characteristics that are not manly, such as being immature, effeminate or cowardly, which might be construed as an indicator of weakness or of baseness of character.
    • 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, The Wrong Box,
      'I do not know which is the worse,' he cried, 'the fraudulent old villain or the unmanly young cub. ...
    • 1914, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Mucker,
      He'd be wearing white pants and playing lawn tennis presently if he continued to grow much softer and more unmanly.
  2. Of or pertaining to something not human.
    • 1818, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage,
      And then, it may be, of his wish to roam
      Repented he, but in his bosom slept
      The silent thought, nor from his lips did come
      One word of wail, whilst others sate and wept,
      And to the reckless gales unmanly moaning kept.
    • 1902, J. M. Barrie, The Little White Bird,
      I had bought a toy in the street for my own amusement. It represented a woman, a young mother, flinging her little son over her head with one hand and catching him in the other ... The unmanly chuckle always came, I found, when the poor lady dropped her babe, […]
  3. (of a behaviour or action) Cowardly, base.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene,
      Full many mischiefes follow cruell Wrath;
      Abhorred bloodshed and tumultuous strife,
      Unmanly murder, and unthrifty scath,
      Bitter despight, with rancours rusty knife,
      And fretting griefe the enemy of life;
      All these, and many evils moe haunt ire,
      The swelling Splene, and Frenzy raging rife,
      The shaking Palsey, and Saint Fraunces fire:
      Such one was Wrath, the last of this ungodly tire.
    • 1827, James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie,
      But when, instead of an impotent and unmanly struggle for existence, he found that his friend had forborne, with the customary and dignified submission of an Indian warrior, until an opportunity had offered to escape, and that he had then manifested the spirit and decision of the most gifted brave, his gratification became nearly too powerful to be concealed.
    • 1883, Rolf Boldrewood, Robbery Under Arms,
      When they've got nobody but themselves to think of it don't so much matter as I know of; but to keep on breaking the hearts of those as never did you anything but good, and wouldn't if they lived for a hundred years, is cowardly and unmanly any way you look at it.
    • 1902, James Allen, As a Man Thinketh,
      Such a man does not understand the simplest rudiments of those principles which are the basis of true prosperity, and is not only totally unfitted to rise out of his wretchedness, but is actually attracting to himself a still deeper wretchedness by dwelling in, and acting out, indolent, deceptive, and unmanly thoughts.
    • 1917, Henry Handel Richardson, Australia Felix,
      He did not know which was more painful to witness: Hempel's unmanly cringing, or the air of fatuous satisfaction that succeeded it.
  4. (of a behaviour or action) Not acceptable from a man.
    • 1778, Fanny Burney, Evelina: Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World,
      Mr. Coverley was quite brutal: he swore at her with unmanly rage, and seemed scarce able to refrain even from striking her.
    • 1886, Jerome K. Jerome, On Babies, in Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow,
      "Lor’, sir, you wouldn’t have ’em in short clothes, poor little dears?" And she said it in a tone that seemed to imply I had suggested some unmanly outrage.
  5. (of a behaviour or action) Not becoming of a man.
    • 1868, Louisa May Alcott, Little Women,
      Jo wanted to lay her head down on that motherly bosom, and cry her grief and anger all away, but tears were an unmanly weakness, and she felt so deeply injured that she really couldn’t quite forgive yet.
    • 1899 November, Stephen Crane, "Showin' Off" from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 99, No. 594,
      First, the more robust boys considered talking with girls an unmanly occupation; second, the greater part of the boys were afraid; third, they had no idea of what to say, because they esteemed the proper sentences should be supernaturally incisive and eloquent.
    • 1910, G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World,
      Many voteless women regard a vote as unwomanly. Nobody says that most voteless men regarded a vote as unmanly. Nobody says that any voteless men regarded it as unmanly.
Translations Translations Adverb


  1. In a manner that is unmanly.
    • 1878, The Christian Monitor, vol. 17, page 298,
      He had acted unmanly, unworthy of a gentleman.
    • 1900, Pauline Hopkins, [http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/digs/wwm97247/@Generic__BookView?DwebQuery=hopkins&DwebSearchAll=1 Contending forces : a romance illustrative of negro life north and south],
      "That means that we shan't quarrel if I agree to whatever you are going to propose. What is it you want to say?" he asked, becoming grave in his turn. "Is it that I have behaved unmanly in visiting your room in your absence? Why cavil about a little thing of that sort? I do this for you as I would for Dora."
    • 1914, Jeff C. Davis Riddle, The Indian history of the Modoc war, and the causes that led to it ↗,
      A Yankee who had not "acclimated" well but had retained his native habit of "arguing" things, came to Riddle's one day, and after some talk about a stray horse, intimated that Mr. Riddle had behaved unmanly in the matter. Wi-ne-ma taking in the situation, pitched into Mr. Yank, and before he knew it, his head was bleeding profusely and a strong hand was grasping his throat. He fought back as best he could, but the poor little Yank was in the hands of an enraged Modoc woman, who was pelting him in the face, saying between her licks, "I'll learn you how you talk about my man."

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