1620s, "functionless as a result of age or exhaustion," from Latin effetus (usually in fem. effeta) "exhausted, unproductive, worn out (with bearing offspring), past bearing," literally "that has given birth," from a lost verb, *efferi, from assimilated form of ex "out" (see ex-) + fetus "childbearing, offspring" (see fetus). Figurative use is earliest in English; literal use is rare. Sense of "intellectually or morally exhausted" (1790) led to that of "decadent, effeminate" (by 1850s).
updated on December 12, 2016