Skip to main content

Bisexual vs Hermaphroditic vs Hermaphrodite vs Androgynous vs Epicene

Bisexual, hermaphroditic, hermaphroditeandrogynous, epicene are comparable when meaning combining male and female qualities.

The first four of these terms may be used interchangeably to mean being structurally or functionally both male and female; they may apply to all kinds of living beings and may designate a normal or an abnormal state.

Bisexual also is applied to human mental or behavioral qualities and, more precisely, designates the individual who responds sexually to members of both sexes.

Hermaphroditic and hermaphrodite when applied to human beings usually indicate primarily the presence of physical characteristics and especially of actual gonads of both sexes in the same individual and imply an abnormal state.

Hermaphrodite frequently or hermaphroditic occasionally has extended use in which it suggests the combination of two readily distinguishable and often more or less incongruous elements; thus, a hermaphrodite wagon is one made up of a two-wheeled cart with an extra pair of wheels and a rack added; hermaphrodite calipers have one caliper and one divider leg.

Androgynous in reference to human beings or to qualities or characteristics rarely connotes abnormality but rather suggests a congruous and pleasing blending.

Androgynous is also the preferred term for use in respect to deities, their attributes or appearances.

Unlike the preceding terms, epicene has no technical application to physical or functional status; however, in its often allusive reference to sex in characterizing human beings, their attributes, or the products of their being it may approach the other terms in meaning.

More often epicene suggests deficient sexuality and may imply intersexuality, effeminacy, or sexlessness.

In some contexts epicene loses all direct reference to sex and suggests rather the weakness inherent in deficiency which may be expressed on the one hand in extreme delicacy or on the other in utter decadence.