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 ?
However, as there was no bagman to look on, nobody knew anything at all about the matter; and so Tom Smart and his clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, went on together, keeping the secret among them, and nobody was a bit the wiser.
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.
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.