I have recently heard that "slim" as a positive synonym for "thin" usually isn't used for men but only for women. Is that actually true? If it is, which word can I use to describe myself as a man? "Thin" is neutral but sometimes you might want to use a word associated with attractiveness, like "athetlic" (only that doesn't really work here because it implies physical fitness).

Thank you!

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    Hello, 285. Please include the research you’ve done. Looking up synonyms (close and not-so-close) for 'slim' and 'thin' may not give you a definitive answer, but such synonyms, together with reasonable comments on them, should be included. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Mar 6 '18 at 11:14
  • I think fit conveys the meaning you are suggesting: : If you describe someone as fit, you mean that they are good-looking. [British, informal] About an hour later a really fit guy came up to me on the dance floor. collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/fit
    – user 66974
    Mar 6 '18 at 11:20
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    @user5768790 ... I don't think fit is a good answer? The really 'fit' guy on the dancefloor could be built like a brick outhouse... hardly slim. Mar 6 '18 at 11:41
  • @ArchContrarian- I doubt a brick outhouse on the dancefloor would be called “fit” by anyone.
    – user 66974
    Mar 6 '18 at 11:47
  • Americans would only use fit in the sense of physically fit, i.e., athletic. British slang can mean this, but not exclusively.
    – KarlG
    Mar 6 '18 at 11:49

It is quite common to describe a man as slim. In fact, it can even be a cool-sounding nickname: Slim Pickens, Iceberg Slim, and so on.

Slimness can in fact be attributed to a man in a complimentary way, but it depends very much on the context (whereas it is complimentary by default to describe a woman as slim).

For a man, slim is good when compared to fat, bad when compared to athletic or manly (for example).

An athletic physique, implies good muscle tone and posture as well as slimness, so it's not a synonym.

Some good alternatives, that are considered positive things for a man to be, in general, are: lean; wiry; and svelte.

Lean: (of a person or animal) thin, especially healthily so; having no superfluous fat.

Wiry:(of a person) lean, tough, and sinewy.

Svelte: (of a person) slender and elegant.

Be aware though that wiry includes connotations of strength and toughness, as well as just slimness - and that svelte is perhaps more associated with women than men (but it is a compliment to anyone).

-- Of course, all of this depends on cultural beliefs about sex, gender, and ideal body shapes, etc. These beliefs vary from place to place and between generations, so there can be no fully definitive answer to your question. --

  • I see lean most often in romance novel descriptions of the hero, often as "whipcord lean". Slim might appear occasionally, but not nearly as often. Wiry implies smallness, so that's never a heroic attribute (in these novels) although it might apply to a masculine sidekick. Svelte seems the least likely (it has overtones of both dieting and curvy in my mind). None of which means you can't apply these terms without regard to gender or sex; that's just what I've observed from reading way too many sudsy novels with their inevitable descriptions of hunky guys.
    – 1006a
    Mar 6 '18 at 16:46
  • @1006a, that's interesting... I've never read that kind of novel, but they're surely a good indicator about what is seen as 'ideal' in a man, from a female perspective. I'm pretty sure most men would rather be 'wiry' than just 'lean', because it implies toughness and resilience, which men admire more than 'build' in other men. An interesting gendered difference in the use of words! Mar 12 '18 at 5:11
  • Yep, romance novels have a vocabulary all their own, which is sometimes very gendered. I think the "toughness" part is where "whipcord" comes from. Try a Google Books search for "whipcord lean" and check out how dominated by romance novels the results are. "Lean and wiry" doesn't have nearly the same results-profile. The word tensile has also come to be used in romance novels for something like "leanly muscled" or "sinewy, but not in a gross, chicken-leg kind of way". That usage isn't supported by any existing dictionary definition, but it's all over romance novels.
    – 1006a
    Mar 12 '18 at 20:51

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