1. (Usually of animals or vegetation) generating many offspring, or having the potential to do so
  2. Producing many innovative or unique ideas or products; intellectually prolific


You want a new pet, but you don't want the responsibility of a big animal to feed, clean, and, uh, potty-train. So you get a fish bowl and a couple of nice looking guppies - that's safe and easy, right? Right…until one's stomach starts to get big. Soon enough, you've got two big guppies and about a million and a half little ones. And then they start getting pregnant, and then the original guppies get pregnant again, and now you're begging your relatives and neighbors to take some of the multitude off your hands. You, poor sap, have just learned a practical lesson about what it means to be fecund.

Fecund is an adjective that is most often used to describe fertility in a plant, animal or person. Those that are said to be fecund, such as guppies in a fishbowl or a growth of wisteria vines, are understood to be reproducing at an explosive rate. Fecund can also characterize an organism as having the capability to breed rapidly rather than as actually doing so. This means that, just like you might be shocked to learn how fecund your guppies were after their numbers quintupled, a more experienced fish-keeper might know that especially fecund varieties need to be separated from others of their kind so they don't reproduce.

Logically, the use of fecund in this way implies a sense of virility or energy, often seen as a sign of health. To call an animal fecund, for example, might reveal that it is thriving in its environment or that it is a particularly vigorous specimen. This makes the word apropos for describing the overall health or status of a general population. A fecund type of tree, for instance, is not likely to land on the endangered species list any time soon.

If you're ever called fecund, though, the person you're speaking with is likely paying you a high compliment rather than commenting on your reproductive system. Figuratively, to be fecund is to have a highly intelligent, productive mind. In this sense, fecund people are the prolific geniuses of society, those men and women who, like Einstein or Da Vinci, are constantly coming up with ideas and innovations that examine the world in new ways. An important thing to note about this use of fecund is that it doesn't just imply a considerable intellect. Instead, it denotes intellectual productivity, characterizing those whose new thoughts are in abundance. This production can take the form of either tangible inventions, like the prolific publications of a talented poet, or abstract ideas, as in the theories about gravity postulated by Einstein - you can't get much more fecund than that.

Example: Last summer, my garden was blessed by a particularly fecund watermelon vine.

Example: An attic full of home-made gadgets was evidence of Manny's fecund thought process.

Example: Aware that rabbits have a reputation of being fecund, Lisa was hesitant to have one as a pet despite her fondness for them.


These days, to say that someone "sucks" isn't exactly a compliment. But, for centuries, the image of "sucking" on a teat was strongly connected to the ideas of strength and growth. This is seen clearly in the origins of fecund, which likely begin with the Proto-Indo-European root *dhe(i)-, meaning "to suckle" or "to produce." The idea of sucking for nourishment and strength would continue with the development of the Latin root *fe-, which would form the basis of words in that language like the adjective fecundus ("prolific; bountiful; fertile"). Old French would adopt this term as fecont, which would later inspire the Middle English fecond, meaning "lush or fruitful." Fecund would arise in modern English by the 16th century, its spelling reconfigured to harken back to the Latin form.

Derivative Words

Fecundity: The noun form of fecund, fecundity can refer to fertility (as in your baby-making skills) or intellectual productivity.

Example: After years of vainly hoping my dog would have babies, I finally had to accept little Flufferbuns' lack of fecundity.

Example: Flipping through her daughter's notebooks, Maria was amazed by the girl's fecundity.

Fecundate: This verb refers to the action of making something prolific or allowing something to reproduce. Sometimes (often in medicine and biology), it means "to impregnate."

Example: Despite an unassuming appearance, a handful of seeds has the potential to fecundate a garden.

Example: A neutered dog will never be able to fecundate another.

Fecundates: This form of fecundate indicates when a third person singular subject (he, she, or it) impregnates someone or causes something to be prolific.

Example: Every year, the inspiring teacher fecundates a fresh group of young minds.

Fecundating: The -ing form of fecundate is usually used when someone or something is currently causing another to produce.

Example: For Maria, long walks in the woods were an excellent way of fecundating her mind with creative thoughts.

Fecundated: The simple past-ed and past participle-en form of fecundate is used when a subject impregnated something or made something productive at a past time.

Example: A more flexible budget soon fecundated the company's product development division.

Fecundation: The noun form is used more in biological contexts, although it sometimes does get used figuratively as well. It essentially means fertilization.

Example: From the first ovary fecundation to the last stage of fetal development, the book documents the birth of a new human being in beautiful detail. (From a review of the book "A Child is Born")

In Literature

From Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness:

And from right to left along the lighted shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman….She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul.

Conrad uses fecund to describe the untamed scenery, characterizing it as abundant in vegetation and teeming with primal life force. He thus portrays the natural setting as an analog to this vision of a proud, wild woman.


  • Fecund makes more by the second!


Populations, Reproduction, Fertility, Geniuses

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of fecund. Did you use fecund in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.