Masculinity has been interpreted differently by various cultures and at various points in our history. The wise men of yore considered the implied masculine ideals in myths of gods and heroes as a measure of manliness. But as the industrial revolution raged through the world and the frequency of wars decreased (humans instead choosing one war to end all wars, which eventually gave rise to another, more devastating war), man began to be seen as the breadwinner for his family and their identities remained centered on their working lives and economic contributions. Some traits, however, managed to withstand the test of time and are still considered masculine traits. A few of them include strength, courage, leadership and assertiveness. Thus, quite a few words popped up in our dictionaries that relate to these traits.
Vir in Latin refers to man and virils means being worthy of a man. In modern English, we use virile to mean strength and vigor (generally sexual) as they are considered to be masculine characteristics. In a different context, it conveys a sense of health and potency. For instance, a virile leadership means a potent leadership.
The Latin term Virtus meant ideal masculine traits such as courage and bravery. It led to the birth of the term virtue which means morality and righteousness. So if it is said that someone lived a virtuous life, it means that he or she lived in accordance to moral principles. Virtue can also mean a good quality or advantage (as in ‘A virtue of this location is its proximity to the railway station’). If someone has secured admission into a college by virtue of being a sports gold medalist, it means they got the admission because he is a gold medalist (i.e. a good quality).
In Italian, virtuous is referred to as virtuoso. It has been adopted by English as well but here it means a master or someone who is exceptionally skilled in an artistic pursuit. You might have heard someone being called a virtuoso pianist or being lauded for a virtuoso performance. A related word virtu refers to someone’s expertise in fine arts.
Unsurprisingly, traits which are usually associated with men can also be found in women. Such a woman (especially a female warrior) was called virago. This deviation from the preconceived notion of femininity was not very well received. As a result, in modern times, virago refers to a domineering, violent or abusive woman.
A quick look at the table below shall bestow you with the courage to attempt the quiz and crossword below.
|Having strength, energy and sexual vigor
|The quality of having strength, energy and sexual vigor
|A domineering, violent or abusive woman
|Morality and righteousness; A good or useful quality
|A person highly skilled in an artistic pursuit
|Expertise in fine arts