refers to any of a wide range of masculine
characteristics viewed positively. It is not applicable to women
or to negative characteristics. The Oxford English Dictionary
(OED1) says virile is "marked by strength or force." Virility is commonly associated with vigour, health
, sturdiness, and constitution, especially in the fathering of children. In this last sense, virility is to men as fertility is to women. OED1 also notes an obsolete use of virile
in this sense for a "nubile young woman — "a maide that is Mariageable or ripe for a Husband, or Virill.
The word itself is derived from the Latin word vir meaning simply "man" (in a gender specific sense). The German for "virility" is Manneskraft — the strength of a man.
Historically, masculine attributes such as beard growth have been seen as signs of virility and leadership (for example in ancient Egypt and Rome).
As a term for positive reference, virility does not accord with feminisms that put forward various deconstructions of masculinity. According to these points of view, virility is redefined as an outdated abstraction, impacting negatively on women via unwanted sexual activity, and unwanted pregnancies.