‘Emasculate’ or ‘Demasculate’: What’s the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on September 13, 2022

So you’re curious about the difference between the words ‘emasculate’ and ‘demasculate’?

Look no further! In this article, we will explain which term is correct to use and the intended meaning of each word.

Let us start by saying that ‘demasculate’ is not in the dictionary; therefore, it is not an official word. However, the word ‘emasculate’ is considered a correct word in the English language.

Understanding The Terms "Emasculate" VS "Demasculate"

Let's dive in to a little grammar lesson, followed by a detailed explanation of the various meanings of the word.

A Bit of Grammar

‘Emasculate’ is a transitive verb. This means it is a verb that acts upon something else. ‘Emasculate’ is always done to something or someone. Some other examples of transitive verbs include:

  • Hug (She loves to hug her pets)
  • Borrow (Can I borrow your pen?)

Non-transitive verbs don’t require a direct object to be present in the sentence. They can stand alone. For example:

  • Crawl (My baby has started to crawl)
  • Sound (That sounds like music to my ears)

What does this mean? You should always clarify what or who is being emasculated in your sentence.

The verb ‘to emasculate’ can also be used as an adjective - which would be ‘emasculated’ - or a noun - which would be ‘emasculation.’

Etymology of ‘Emasculate’

The word ‘emasculate’ comes from the Latin ‘emasculatus’. We can break this down further to understand the makeup of the Latin word. It comprises the prefix ‘e’ and the word ‘masculus’.

Adding the prefix ‘e’ to a word in Latin was used to signify the loss or absence of an attribute.

The word ‘masculus’ means ‘male’.

Therefore the term ‘emasculate’ means to remove a male attribute. Let’s dive into the definition of the word.

A Biological Meaning

The word ‘emasculate’ carries a physical and quite literal meaning - that of removing the testes from a man or a male animal. This process is also referred to as castration. Here’s an example of how to use the word in this sense in a sentence:

They usually emasculate the male animals as they come into the rescue center, so they don’t reproduce.

A Metaphorical Meaning

The word is also used metaphorically when a man feels less male. That could happen for many different reasons, as each man has his own relationship with masculinity. To use a basic and perhaps old-fashioned example, a man might feel emasculated if he cannot provide for his family. In a sentence, this would look like this:

David is grateful that his parents-in-law let them all live there rent-free, but it does leave him feeling somewhat emasculated.

The term ‘emasculate’ can also be used to describe the process of sabotaging or reducing the effectiveness of something. To ‘emasculate’ something would make it less worthy than before.

Here are some examples of ‘emasculate’ being used in this context to help you understand:

My teacher completely emasculated my essay; he made so many changes that it isn’t even recognizable anymore.

We cannot emasculate the law by allowing this policy change.

A Botanical Meaning

Last but not least, the word ‘emasculate’ has an alternative meaning that we cannot leave out here; this meaning comes in handy during the process of artificial cross-pollination.

It is the method of removing the male parts of a flower in order to prevent self-pollination. This allows for the flower to be matched with a suitable specimen so they can be cross-pollinated.

Let’s see the word in this sense used in a sentence:

Plant breeders use emasculation in bisexual flowers to obtain a new variety of a plant.

Variants of the Word ‘Emasculate’

Why do people use the word 'demasculate'? And is there a female version of the word? These are questions we are about to answer, so if you want to know, read on.

How People Use The Term ‘Demasculate’

Why is the use of the word ‘demasculate’ so widespread if it isn’t a real word? And why do results appear when you perform an online search using a search engine?

Let us start by answering the first question.

The prefix -de is commonly used in English and was inherited from Latin. It implies the undoing or doing the opposite of something. Here are some examples of English words that use the prefix -de in that sense:

  • Desensitize
  • Deescalate
  • Dehumanize
  • Degrease
  • Deforest

In each of these examples, the -de suffix aims to undo the verb it precedes. This widespread use of the prefix -de could explain why it’s so widely believed that ‘demasculate’ is the correct term to refer to the act of removing someone’s masculinity. After all, it makes sense.

All it takes is a few articles confirming the correctness of the word ‘demasculate’; suddenly, the word’s use becomes widespread. You can find online forums debating its meaning and blogs explaining the difference between ‘emasculate’ and ‘demasculate’.

But we want to debunk this myth. Because the truth is, there is no difference since ‘demasculate’ is not a word.

But don’t just take our word for it! Go ahead and search for the definition of the word in the dictionary. Online dictionary or physical one; you won’t find the word.

Actually, let us caveat this. There is one dictionary in which the word ‘demasculate’ appears, and that is the Urban Dictionary, implying that the word can perhaps be used in conversational contexts. However, this is a little confusing because it lists ‘demasculate’ as meaning to un-castrate and ‘demasculated’ as meaning to remove one's masculinity by any means necessary. These two definitions appear to contradict one another.

Check out our other guide: ‘Dateline’ or ‘Deadline’: What is the Difference?

Female Version

Many people ask for the female version of the word ‘emasculate.’ Of course, this would depend on the meaning of the word.

In the sense of removal of genitalia, this would indicate the removal of her ovaries. In this case, the word ‘castration’ also applies.

If we are talking about the word in the metaphorical sense of removing in someone their sense of feeling like a man, then technically, a woman cannot be emasculated, since she does not feel like a man.

The metaphorical meaning of the term as we described it earlier, however, could very well be used to refer to a woman since it is of course possible to make a woman feel weak or ineffective.

The Controversial Notions of the Word

As you may have picked up on, the word in its metaphorical and symbolic sense is somewhat controversial because it could be seen as implying that something decreases in quality when stripped of masculine traits. Indeed, the word comes from the Latin root word demasculare, which means ‘to remove’ and ‘male.’

It could also be taken to perpetuate the notion that men should feel ashamed if they don’t fulfill specific traditional gender roles.

Some might complain that it does not take into account the understanding that all genders can and should embrace their masculine and feminine qualities.

Nor does it allow space for any gender to navigate their own understanding of what it means to be a man, a woman, transgender or non-binary.

Final Thoughts on the Word ‘Emasculate’

Hopefully, we have given you a better understanding of the word ‘emasculate’ and the difference between ‘emasculate’ and ‘demasculate.’

Let us summarize here before bringing this article to a close.

The correct word is ‘emasculate.’

‘Demasculate’ is not an official word in the English language. If you use it, no doubt people will understand what you mean, but using it will not be correct.

The word has three different meanings: a biological meaning, a metaphorical meaning, and a botanical meaning.

Use this word wisely as in certain contexts, it can be seen as somewhat outdated or playing too much into specific gender roles.

Thank you for reading, and don't forget to check out some of our other articles on confusing words.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.