My curiosity here arises from the fact that it seems bizarre that "fox" and "dog" (not terribly dissimilar creatures - see Belyaev's fox experiment) would have such opposite meanings when used in reference to women.

According to the online etymology dictionary fox n.

Meaning "sexually attractive woman" is from 1940s; but foxy in this sense is recorded from 1895.

In addition to the noun form, foxy, "stone cold fox" and vixen (a female fox) all carry connotations of sexually-alluring women (though vixen, as seen below, seems to have a more negative origin):

The figurative sense "ill-tempered woman" is attested from 1570s. The spelling shift from -f- to -v- began late 1500s (see V).

Referring to a woman as a dog or a "female dog" is an insult (for the most part).

dog n.

Slang meaning "ugly woman" is from 1930s.

Assuming that humans do not find foxes more sexually attractive than dogs as a matter of course, I'm wondering how the origins of these meanings may have shaped their divergent connotations.

  • 1
    @KitFox would probably be able to tell you why:)
    – Noah
    Jul 9, 2013 at 11:23
  • 1
    Initially I read your fourth paragraph as meaning "connotations of [someone/people] sexually alluring women" ("alluring" as a verb). I assume you mean "connotations of sexually-alluring women" (women who are sexually alluring)?
    – TrevorD
    Jul 9, 2013 at 12:01
  • @TrevorD yes! What a difference a hyphen can make... Jul 9, 2013 at 12:07
  • Just because you can train a fox is irellevant to the coinage "fox" meaning sexually attractive woman. Most people have never tried to train a fox. The meanings are different because of the opposite ways humans normally interact with foxes and dogs. In that regard they are terribly different. Jul 9, 2013 at 12:46
  • Minx is an example contrary to the question's “fox good, dog bad” conceit; it has a mostly-positive sense “A pert, flirtatious or impudent young woman” in addition to a dog-like sense “(obsolete) A female puppy; a pet dog” Jul 9, 2013 at 14:03

2 Answers 2


Throughout history as far as I can tell, female foxes have been depicted as elegant, slim, aloof creatures not easily tamed or caught (but chased) and some women have been wearing fox fur coats.

Dogs are mostly (depicted) as subservient to man and we know what female dogs are called.

  • So it all comes down to the thrill of the chase... That makes a lot of sense (and is emphasized in the context of dogs' roles in a fox hunt). Thanks! Jul 9, 2013 at 14:34

Foxes are personified as sly and cunning, which I believe is linked to the concept of an attractive woman using her allure and sensuality to beguile and trick men into 'falling in lust' with them. It seems to me that it is this characteristic of foxes, rather than physical appearance, that is implied by describing a woman as a fox, or as foxy.

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