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Girlish vs. Girly: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 2, 2023
"Girlish" refers to qualities traditionally associated with young girls, while "Girly" describes anything feminine regardless of age. Both words are adjectives but apply in slightly different contexts.

Key Differences

"Girlish" typically describes characteristics that are reminiscent of a young girl or female child. On the other hand, "Girly" is broader and can describe any attributes, styles, or behaviors that are considered traditionally feminine.
From a grammatical standpoint, both "Girlish" and "Girly" serve as adjectives. While "Girlish" frequently applies to behavior, "Girly" often extends to objects like clothing, toys, or décor.
"Girlish" often describes behavioral characteristics, such as innocence, youthful exuberance, or naivety. "Girly," however, is more frequently used to describe external factors like fashion choices, color schemes, or hobbies that are traditionally feminine.
In terms of age appropriateness, "Girlish" tends to be confined to describing the characteristics of young girls or female children. "Girly" has a more expansive reach, being applicable to women and even men who exhibit feminine qualities.
Both "Girlish" and "Girly" are generally used in a descriptive context, but the connotations can vary. "Girlish" often implies a certain level of immaturity or youthfulness, while "Girly" can sometimes be used to challenge traditional gender norms.

Comparison Chart

Primary Application

Young girls or female children
Broadly feminine

Grammatical Role


Common Contexts

Objects, styles

Age Range

Limited to youth

Additional Connotations

Often implies youth or immaturity
May challenge gender norms

Girlish and Girly Definitions


Young in appearance
She had a girlish figure even in her 40s.


Feminine appearance
She wore girly dresses.


Youthful enthusiasm
She giggled with girlish excitement.


Feminine style
She had a girly room decorated in pink.


Childlike femininity
She had a girlish charm about her.


Traditional female interests
She enjoys girly activities like shopping.


Relating to young girls
Girlish dreams often involve fairy tales.


Relating to women or girls
Girly magazines focus on fashion and beauty.


Naive or innocent
Her girlish innocence was endearing.


Used by both genders
His girly handwriting surprised many.


Characteristic of or befitting a girl
Girlish charm.


Relating to or characteristic of girls, young women, or traditional femininity
A girly voice.


Like (that of) a girl; feminine.


Often Derogatory Weak, timid, or effeminate. Used chiefly of men.


(archaic) Of or relating to girlhood.


Variant of girlie.


Like, or characteristic of, a girl; of or pertaining to girlhood; innocent; artless; immature; weak; as, girlish ways; girlish grief.


Variant of girlie.


Befitting or characteristic of a young girl;
Girlish charm
A dress too schoolgirlish for office wear


Characteristic of a stereotypical girl, very effeminate, gentle; unmasculine.


Of, or pertaining to, a young, attractive woman; especially one who is scantily clad.
A girly calendar


(slang) Weak; wussy.


(childish) Girl.


What is "Girlish"?

It describes qualities traditionally associated with young girls.

Do these words serve the same grammatical roles?

Yes, both are adjectives.

Can "Girlish" describe objects?

It is usually used to describe behavior or characteristics, not objects.

What is "Girly"?

It describes anything considered feminine regardless of age.

Can men be described as "Girlish" or "Girly"?

While less common, men can be described as "Girly," but rarely as "Girlish."

Can "Girly" describe behavior?

Yes, but it is more commonly used for objects and styles.

Does "Girlish" imply immaturity?

Often, it can imply youth or immaturity.

Can "Girlish" be empowering?

Context-dependent, but it can celebrate youthful qualities.

Is "Girlish" ever used in a derogatory manner?

It can be, especially when implying immaturity.

Does "Girly" imply immaturity?

Not necessarily, it can apply to women of all ages.

Is "Girlish" age-restricted?

It is generally used for youthful characteristics.

Is "Girly" age-restricted?

No, it is age-neutral.

Is "Girly" ever used in a derogatory manner?

It can be, but is also reclaimed for empowerment.

What are some synonyms for "Girlish"?

Childlike, youthful, naive.

Can "Girly" be empowering?

Yes, especially when challenging traditional gender norms.

What are some synonyms for "Girly"?

Feminine, ladylike, womanly.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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