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From Middle English mannisshe, mannysh, from earlier mennish (human", also "humanity, mankind), from Old English mennisc (human, natural, humane", also "mankind, humnan race), from Proto-Germanic *manniskaz (human), from Proto-Germanic *mann- (man, human, person), from Proto-Indo-European *man- (man), equivalent to man +‎ -ish. Cognate with Dutch mens (human), German Mensch (human being), Danish menneske (human), Icelandic manneskja (person, human being). More at man, mennish.



mannish (comparative more mannish, superlative most mannish)

  1. (now archaic) Resembling or characteristic of a human being, in form or nature; human. [from 9th c.]
    • 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, The Tale of Melibee,[2]
      The proverbe seith: that “for to do sinne is mannish, but certes for to persevere longe in sinne is werk of the devel.”
    • 1390, John Gower, Confessio Amantis, lines 1527-30,[3]
      Bot yit was as in figure
      Most lich to mannyssh creature,
      Bot as of beaute hevenelich
      It was most to an Angel lich:
    • 1955, JRR Tolkien, The Return of the King:
      The Westron was a Mannish speech, though enriched and softened under Elvish influence.
  2. Of a woman: resembling or characteristic of a man, masculine. [from 14th c.]
    • c. 1380s, Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, Book I, lines 281-284,[4]
      She nas nat with the leste of hir stature,
      But alle hir limes so wel answeringe
      Weren to womanhode, that creature
      Was neuer lasse mannish in seminge.
    • c. 1601, William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene 3,[5]
      A woman impudent and mannish grown
      Is not more loathed than an effeminate man
      In time of action.
    • 1928, Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness, Book One, Chapter 7,[6]
      She detested the look of herself in large goggles, detested being forced to tie on her hat, detested the heavy, mannish coat of rough tweed that Sir Philip insisted she must wear when motoring.
  3. Resembling or characteristic of a grown man (as opposed to a boy); mature, adult. [from 16th c.]
    • c. 1609, William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2,[7]
      And let us, Polydore, though now our voices
      Have got the mannish crack, sing him to the ground,
    • 1748, Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, Volume I, Letter 8,[8]
      And so, with an air of mannish superiority, he seems rather to pity the bashful girl, than to apprehend that he shall not succeed.
    • 1957, Langston Hughes, Simply Heavenly: A Comedy with Music, Dramatists Play Service, Act I, Scene 4, page 25,[9]
      [] Aunt Lucy found out about it and woke me up the next morning with a switch in her hand. . . . But I got all mannish that morning, Joyce. I said, “Aunt Lucy, you ain’t gonna whip me no more. I’se a man now—and you ain’t gonna whip me.”
    • 2011, Mickel Brann, “Don’t take it personal,” Antigua Observer, 30 March, 2011,[10]
      It’s things like these that remind me that for all his mannish ways, he’s still just a little tyke after all.
  4. (Caribbean, Guyana) Impertinent; assertive.[1] [from 19th c.]
    • 2014, Kurt Campbell, “Police left 15-year-old to die — Relatives,”, 11 March, 2014,[11]
      “They could have saved his life because he was still living, one woman said when she told the police that the boy was alive he said leave him to die, he’s wanted,” Giddings cried, adding that “I know he bad, he mannish, he does misbehave but I never know he was wanted… how can they make the claim without medical assistance.”
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chaucer to this entry?)


Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ cf. Richard Alsopp, Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, University of the West Indies Press, 2003, mannish.[1]

Further reading[edit]

  • mannish at OneLook Dictionary Search