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It seems that the word "sex" in the context of sexual intercourse is a fairly recent development. How would sexual intercourse have been referred to before the 1920's? Coitus? Is there a more casual word, or was the word 'coitus' casual at the time?

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In more literary registers: making love, lying with someone, being intimate with someone, etc. In more colloquial registers, there have likely been slang terms like ‘fuck’ etc. for basically as long as there’s been language. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 30 '13 at 11:40
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@MετάEd I believe that knew there is a Hebrew calque. –  StoneyB Aug 30 '13 at 11:52
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In the past, counsel for the plaintiff in British adultery cases would say, if reports are to be believed, ‘They then went upstairs where intimacy took place, m’lud.’ –  Barrie England Aug 30 '13 at 12:04
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@AndrewLeach: Is that why I hear "that fucking congressman" so often? –  dotancohen Aug 30 '13 at 13:13
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@Barrie: 'Given two mature adults of opposite sex sharing a bed voluntarily, the law will presume intimacy took place -unless they are husband and wife.' Too Good to Check folder. –  TimLymington Aug 30 '13 at 17:11

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Fuck, from the 16th century.

Roger, from 1711.

Screw, from 1725.

Shag, from 1788.

What a great question.

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I'd add “poke”, but I cannot say when it was used in that sense. –  Carsten Schultz Aug 31 '13 at 14:45
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Fuck is from well before the 16th century, though it's not often attested because of its vulgarity. –  siride Sep 1 '13 at 1:08
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Roger that!‏‏‏‏ –  dotancohen Sep 1 '13 at 7:08
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I love how specific these are. If only we knew exactly which day in 1711 ole Jimmy boy gave Sally a good rogering.. –  Ollie Ford Dec 12 at 22:44

How about knew, as in the Biblical sense as here in Genesis 48 38, verse 26 (the earliest usage in Genesis (King James Authorized) that I could find):

And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

Here at Collins online dictionary is a definition:

9.(archaic) to have sexual intercourse with

Alternatively, up a few verses in verse 16 we have the phrase come in unto me used thus:

And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

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you can go well earlier than chapter 38: chapter 4 verse 1a "And Adam knew Eve his wife: who conceived and brought forth Cain" –  warren Dec 16 at 16:47

In some archaic literature, "to lie with" would denote sexual intercourse. This gave rise (excuse the pun) to the modern colloquial "to get laid."

Please see http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lie+with

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Fornication

Fornication typically refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other [...] The word derives from Latin, fornix meaning "arch", supposedly as a euphemism for "brothel". The first recorded use in English is in the Cursor Mundi, c. 1300; [...]"Fornicated" as an adjective is still used in botany, meaning "arched" or "bending over" (as in a leaf). John Milton plays on that and its sexual meaning in The Reason of Church-Government Urged against Prelaty (1642):
"[She] gives up her body to a mercenary whordome under those fornicated [ar]ches which she cals Gods house."

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Not to be confused with formication. :) –  tchrist May 25 at 13:14
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My Sainted Ant! –  bmargulies Dec 11 at 22:40

protected by tchrist Jul 2 at 2:34

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