What is the common negative adjective that expresses a woman or girl who tried too much to show to others that she is attractive and pretty, for example, she might shake her hips when walking, put on too much makeup, or say really girly words?

Note: She might not promote any sexuality, she just tries hard to be charming and make people think she is pretty and girly. It could be used for a little girl as well. So, It does not refer to sexuality.

Words such as Suggestive, Flirtatious, Sluttish are not suitable.

It could be used to talk about "men" that behave like women.

I asked this question because I wanted to translate the Vietnamese word "điệu" to English. The Vietnamese English dictionary says "feminine". But I didn't trust it very much.

I think "girlish" or "girly" might be suitable.

  • 1
    Perhaps ostentatious: Characterized by pretentious or showy display; designed to impress. It is gender-neutral. Commented May 17, 2020 at 16:22
  • You really need to clarify what you're asking for. First, does it need to be a word that only applies to women? Second, why are the words you rule out not suitable? What are the specific qualities of the behaviour or reasons for the behaviour? Is there some goal or attitude? The three examples of behaviour you provide in the first paragraph don't seem to have a common thread. Commented May 17, 2020 at 17:08
  • 1
    I think art the end of the day we probably can't really do much better than girlishness (which could just as well be positive as negative), if we're looking for a word that doesn't implicitly include or exclude sexuality. Any any suggestions probably tell us as much about the stereotypically sexist attitudes of speaker as about the character / behaviour of the girl/woman being described. If we disregard that requirement not to allude to sexuality in its broadest terms, perhaps coquettishness might fill the bill. BTW Tom - what about the corresponding male attribute? Commented May 17, 2020 at 17:10
  • I think "flirtatious" has been dismissed too soon. A synonym search for that showed "coy" and "arch" as possibilities. The OP links the traits to females, but then says it has nothing to do with sexuality. If it's girls only, it must have to do with sexuality, just as it would if it were boys only. Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:19
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica, I think "girlish" might be the one. I asked this question because I wanted to translate the Vietnamese word "điệu" to English. The Vietnamese English dictionary says "feminine". But I didn't trust it very much. By the way, It could be used to talk about "men" that behave like women.
    – Tom
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:42

2 Answers 2


I doubt there is a single word. But "feminine" does not necessarily "connote" "overtly sexual in a female way" any more than "masculine" connotes "overtly sexual in a male way." Instead, the words "feminine" and "masculine" relate to all kinds of behavior that is considered typical of one sex or the other. (The loss of the distinction between the meanings of "sex" and "gender" has made discussion of such issues far more complicated than it need be.)

She was being overtly feminine

She was being excessively feminine

may be considered sexist , but they describe negatively a blatant exhibition of behavior that is considered either socially or biologically feminine. And they can be used to describe men (although usually without qualification because the mere exhibition of the behavior beyond the most trivial is considered noteworthy).

He was being feminine in his response

would typically be interpreted as at least somewhat pejorative. Were you to say

He was being excessively feminine

that would be sort of a double disparagement, one against a behavior that is not considered typically masculine and therefore "strong," and one against a man who deviates excessively from what is socially deemed masculine.

So trying to answer your question without generating a lot of irrelevant argument, I think that the word you want is "feminine," understanding that a whole load of social judgments may be associated with that word. I further think that some phrase or adverb indicating degree or purpose or effect is needed to get across the exact sense you want to convey. The word "feminine" itself does not have negative connotations, but it is easy to generate negative connotations by coupling it with other words such as "wiles."

She bemused the men with her overt femininity

manages to disparage both the woman and the men simultaneously.


Womanish (definitions here and here) might be an option, since it can apply derogatorily to both women and men. In the modern era, it is generally used to invoke negative stereotypes about women, or to suggest that men are being insufficiently masculine. It doesn't explicitly bring in sexual behavior like the words you've eliminated (suggestive, flirtatious or slutty).

Girlish would not strike me as an appropriate word to use for your purposes--it's not generally considered derogatory, and I've never seen it used to apply to men. It also implies innocence and youth, which it doesn't seem like you're looking for.

There may not be an exact translation for you--I wouldn't use 'womanish' for a little girl. Many negative adjectives for women in English are sexually suggestive, which you've ruled out.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .