From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A "virile" woman was perceived as a departure from the normative gender roles of English society, where even being a scold was punishable by law with cucking. Thus virago joined pejoratives such as termagant and shrew to demean women who acted aggressively. However, unlike the other terms, virago originally had, and retained, a positive aspect; for example, the British Royal Navy christened at least four warships Virago.
The Vulgate reads:
Dixitque Adam hoc nunc os ex ossibus meis et caro de carne mea haec vocabitur virago quoniam de viro sumpta est.
"And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man."
The Middle English poem Cursor Mundi retains the Latin name for the woman in its otherwise Middle English account of the creation:
Quen sco was broght be-for adam, Virago he gaf her to nam; þar for hight sco virago, ffor maked of the man was sco. (lines 631-34)
"When she was brought before Adam, Virago was the name he gave to her; Therefore she is called Virago, For she was made out of the man."
- Ernst Breisach, Caterina Sforza ; A Renaissance virago, Chicago [usw.]: University Press 1967
- Elizabeth D. Carney,"Olympias and the Image of the Virago" in: Phoenix, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 29-55
- Morris, Richard. Cursor Mundi: A Northunbrian Poem of the XIV Century. London: Oxford UP, 1874. Republished 1961.
- Yenna Wu, The Chinese virago : a literary theme, Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.] : Harvard Univ. Press, 1995