vixenish


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vix·en

 (vĭk′sən)
n.
1. A female fox.
2.
a. A woman regarded as sexually alluring.
b. A woman regarded as quarrelsome or ill-tempered.

[From dialectal alteration of Middle English fixen, from Old English fyxe.]

vix′en·ish adj.
vix′en·ish·ly adv.
vix′en·ish·ness n.
Word History: In the traditional dialects of Devon, Somerset, and Cornwall, counties of southern England, words that begin with the voiceless fricative sounds (f) and (s) are pronounced instead with voicing, as (v) and (z). (The local rendering of the county name Somerset, in fact, is "Zomerzet.") The voicing is due to a Middle English sound change and may have roots even earlier. At least three examples of this dialectal pronunciation have entered standard English: vat, vane, and vixen. The first of these is a variant of an earlier word fat; the pronunciation with (f) was still used in the 1800s before being displaced by the southern pronunciation (văt). Vane, which used to mean "flag," has a cognate in the German word for "flag," Fahne, showing the original f. Vixen, finally, represents the southern pronunciation of a word that goes back to Old English fyxe, the feminine of fox. It was formed by a change in the root vowel of fox and the addition of a suffix -e or -en. Besides being one of the rare southern English dialect forms to have come into standard English, vixen is also the only survival of this type of feminine noun in the modern language.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.vixenish - shrewish and malicious; "a vixenish old woman"
malicious - having the nature of or resulting from malice; "malicious gossip"; "took malicious pleasure in...watching me wince"- Rudyard Kipling
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References in classic literature ?
If any bagman of that day could have caught sight of the little neck-or-nothing sort of gig, with a clay- coloured body and red wheels, and the vixenish, ill tempered, fast-going bay mare, that looked like a cross between a butcher's horse and a twopenny post-office pony, he would have known at once, that this traveller could have been no other than Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City.
It's a special mercy that she did this, for if she HAD been blown over, the vixenish mare was so light, and the gig was so light, and Tom Smart such a light weight into the bargain, that they must infallibly have all gone rolling over and over together, until they reached the confines of earth, or until the wind fell; and in either case the probability is, that neither the vixenish mare, nor the clay- coloured gig with the red wheels, nor Tom Smart, would ever have been fit for service again.
Sowerberry emerged from a little room behind the shop, and presented the form of a short, then, squeezed-up woman, with a vixenish countenance.
Tall, stout, and upright -- with bright blue eyes, and healthy, florid complexion -- his brown plush shooting-jacket carelessly buttoned awry; his vixenish little Scotch terrier barking unrebuked at his heels; one hand thrust into his waistcoat pocket, and the other smacking the banisters cheerfully as he came downstairs humming a tune -- Mr.
'Very well, Mr Browdie!' said Miss Squeers, hot and flushed from the recent encounter, but vixenish to the last; 'you've been and excited our boys to run away.
The warrior even went to Momaya's husband, who, in turn, having little authority over the vixenish lady of his choice, went to Mbonga, the chief.
Yet she had not the vixenish temper which is sometimes supposed to be a necessary condition of such habits: she was a very mild, patient woman, whose nature it was to seek out all the sadder and more serious elements of life, and pasture her mind upon them.