FEMALE, the correlative of "male," the sex which performs the function of conceiving and bearing as opposed to the begetting of young. The word in Middle English is femelle, adopted from the French from the Lat. femella, which is a diminutive, and in classical Latin used strictly as such, of femina, a woman. The present termination in English is due to a connexion in ideas with "male." In various mechanical devices, where two corresponding parts work within the other, the receiving part is often known as the "female," as for example in the "male" and "female screw." The O. Fr. feme, modern femme, occurs in legal phraseology in feme covert, a married woman, i.e. one protected or covered by a husband, and in feme sole, one not so protected, a widow or spinster (see Women and Husband and Wife).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)