A loud voiced or ill-tempered woman; a woman of strength and spirit.
This powerful noun stems from the Latin vir simply meaning ‘man’ and is dated back to the late 14th century. The suffix ago represents an association of some kind with this ambiguity hinting us that it would not stand for a man, but for a woman.
Why this word?
Words like these, to me, stress the real greatness of the human language. The word itself, upon its lexical ingredients, merely means ‘like a man’, it is only due to our pragmatic abilities that we understand that something that is like a man, is not a man, and by thus- a woman.
In past time, when men were soldiers, hunters, warriors, a virago woman was a brave woman, a fighter, a warrior with abilities stretched far beyond her naturally expected abilities. A virago was once someone to look up to.
Nowadays, I don’t know what men are; some are soldiers, but no longer hunters or warriors. The modern man is… I don’t know. Who do you think the modern man is? We can come closer to its meaning if we consider the meaning of virago today- this word represents a loud woman, one that misbehaves. Imitating past-men makes a woman into a fierce warrior. Imitating modern men on the other hand, makes a woman into an ill-tempered woman. What then does it mean about modern men?
How to use virago?
Personally, I love the old sense of the word. I look at women CEO’s, managers and other top-rank positions and I feel like using this word. As said however, this is not too much of a great word nowadays.
I’m offering you to use both. When you see a powerful woman, refer to her as a virago (Dana is such a virago! She manages this company without even having it look difficult!). When you meet a loud and misbehaved one- refer to her as a virago (step mothers in fairy tales are often portrayed as viragos).
Men of all sorts still exist till this very day; considering the fact that virago is simply man-like, you can chose the man you’re alluding.