Old Words for Sex

We human beings, throughout history, seem to have gone out of our way to find different words for "sex". Why we use euphemisms at all is an interesting topic in itself; and why we use so many euphemisms for sexual intercourse is particularly interesting. Why do *you* think we use, and have used, such a variety of words for sex? Some of the words we use for sex sanitise and remove the sexual act into the abstract (such as "amorous congress" and "carnal knowing") while other euphemisms for sex are crude and straight to the point (as it were). Here is a list of just some of the olden day words people have used for sexual intercourse.

Tip: Part of having a good vocabulary is discriminating carefully among your stock of words for the word that most precisely and succinctly conveys your intended meaning. To build your vocabulary, you should acquire a good stock of synonyms: words that are similar to each other but which have different shades of meaning. Knowing the synonyms’ different shades of meaning will help you choose the right word for the occasion. If you are serious about improving your vocabulary, and building your stock of synonyms, then we highly recommend the popular vocabulary-building software Ultimate Vocabulary.* Visit Ultimate Vocabulary for details.


Charvering (1889). The root word is probably the old Italian slang chiavare, to have sex (or, more crudely, "to fuck"). Charvering was used in Polari — a secret language used mainly by gay men and lesbians in London and other UK cities from the 1900s to the 1970s (eg, Charvering omi = male prostitute). Occasionally, we see more contemporary uses of the word. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary quotes Bookseller from 1990: "There's a fair old bit of charvering, as it happens, but you never get to see what's what because someone's gone and cut the smut out." 

Clicket (1575). To clicket means to be in heat, or to copulate. Clicket was originally used only for foxes: "When a bytche foxe goeth on clycqueting ... she cryeth with a hollowe voyce, like vnto the howling of a madde dogge" (1575) but developed a wider application: "If you pay for Your lawfull pleasure in some kind ... cannot you clicket Without a fee?" (1630).

Commixtion (c1450). Sexual union, copulation. For example, "Unlawful commixion of a marryed man with anye other woman, than with his owne wife" (1543).

Greens (1846). To have one's greens was a slang phrase for heterosexual sexual intercourse; the phrase implies something that is (as with vegetables in the diet) needed regularly.

Hot cockles (a1627). To play at hot cockles meant to have sexual intercourse; and perhaps also to stimulate the genitals of a woman manually: "His Gentlewoman has been at Hot-Cockles without her Husband, and he's Horn mad upon't. I suspected her of being so close in with his Nephew" (1687).

Jelly roll (1895). "As used by the lower class Negro it stands for vagina, or the female genitalia in general, and sometimes for sexual intercourse" (22 Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology 13) (1927).

Mattress jig (1896). "Smutty Moll for a mattress jig" (James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)).

Melling (c1480). "Margret was ane virgin at thar fyrst melling together" (1562).

Mollocking (1959). "There was that little bit of trouble about the carefree mollocking in the London parks" (1959).

Noddy (1602). Rare after 17th century. But see the Oxford English Dictionary, which quotes: "A twenty-year-old sex maniac whose sole preoccupation appeared to be noddy — and how to get enough of it" (1971).

Occupying (1544). The action of having sexual intercourse or relations; use or employment for sexual gratification; an act of sexual intercourse: "Occupying is to stick a prick into a cunt and wriggle your arse 'till you spend" (1969).

Pom pom (1945). Sexual intercourse, especially with a prostitute. Also in to make pom-pom: "There's nough pom-pom for everybody tonight. It's going to be raining sex I can smell it" (1997).

Poontang (1927). "Morty himself knew there was a lot more to life than good poontang" (Olivia Goldsmith, First Wives Club (1992))

Pully hauly (1785). To have a game at pully hauly in the 18th century meant to engage in sexual activity with women.

Quiffing (1686). Quiffing especially meant sexual intercourse had with or by a prostitute: "In the Morning this impudent Prostitute demanded her reward for quiffing" (1686).

Rutting (1600). Rutting meant sexual intercourse and also promiscuous or lecherous behaviour; rare between 17th and 20th centuries. 

Shaking of the sheets (?1577). Shaking of the sheets was the name of a dance in the 16–17th centuries but it was very often used jocularly for sexual intercourse.

Swiving (a1300). A swiver was a person who swives; one given to sexual indulgence.

The flesh's service (c1350). Also flesh-company.

The service of Venus (1398). Also Venus act, Venus exercise, Venus life, Venus play, Venus work (c1500).

Zatch (1950). The buttocks; the female genitals; an act of copulation. "You're going to take her home and give her a zatch" (1980).

(Quotes are to sources cited in the Oxford English Dictionary Online and Historical Thesaurus unless otherwise stated.)

Further study

Research the following:

fellowred (c1250), frigging (1708), jape (c1400), manred (c1275), meddling (a1398), subagitation (1658), wapping (1610), yˈmone (c950).


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Last modified on Friday, 27 November 2015 09:15
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