Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Not to be immature or anything (interpret the question as you will...), but I was just thinking about how "V" is essentially a feminine symbol. The masculine symbol is usually the reverse, probably playing off the whole yin/yang thing. The structural similarities between the letters and sexual organs of both or undeniably similar, while somewhat simplistic (though its distant origin would suggest simplicity). Where did the word come from and did the fact that it starts with the letter 'v' influence its creation or propagation as a word? Then again, thinking on it....unless it came from English, then the word probably didn't start with a 'v'. Nevertheless, it would still be interesting to know how the word came to be.

share|improve this question
1  
Off-topic. When I was in Portugal, in nearby shop there was a hand-written advertisement "Vendemos VAGINAS". Well, they were selling VAÇINAS (VACCINES) but wrote it as VAGINAS. And that ad was there during a year. I told tem few times but they seem to have written it in such way intentionally –  Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk Feb 16 '11 at 7:38
    
Hmmm...ignorant coincidence or some sort of language tradition? Worth investigating? Maybe they just didn't have a cedille and used a 'G' instead? Interesting nevertheless...wonder if tourists thought it was Amsterdam? :) –  Mr_CryptoPrime Feb 16 '11 at 8:59
    
@Mr_CryptoPrime, this was hand-written a little bit carelesslsly, so cedile deeply crossed the letter in one stroke movement –  Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk Feb 16 '11 at 9:18
    
Usual sleeping bairro lost in outskirts of Lisbon, the shop is in the same (or near, it is difficult to differentiate) building with a church. No, Portugueses just seem to have exquisite sense of humor –  Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk Feb 17 '11 at 7:30
1  
Only indirectly related, but as an aside, the word ‘vanilla’ comes from the Portuguese vainilha, which in turn is from Vulgar Latin vaginilla, a diminutive of vagina. Basically, vanilla simply means ‘little sheath’. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 20 '13 at 0:07
show 1 more comment

1 Answer

Vagina comes from the Latin word vagina, which meant "sheath" or "scabbard". The reason for that etymology should be obvious. However, any visual similarity between the letter V and the anatomy in question is purely coincidental. The word ultimately goes back to a Proto-Indo-European root, which predates written language.

Source

share|improve this answer
3  
Until the 19th century at the earliest, most people could not read. It is very unlikely that any word in use before the middle of the 20th century would be in any way influenced by writing or spelling. (In particular, there are many myths flying about of acronymic origins for words, such as "Port out, Starboard Home", or "Fornication Under Consent of King". These are all false, by the same argument) –  Colin Fine Feb 16 '11 at 11:02
    
@Colin - Wouldn't those that define the language would be the intelligencia, thus literate? For example: how many illiterate people would have access to a cabin on a ship (in regards to Posh)? That being said, I do agree with you in this case but I was just wondering just how democratic language development is. –  dave Feb 18 '11 at 3:11
3  
@Dave: Emphatically not. The people who define the language are those who use it. The intelligentsia, or the nobility, or the politburo, or the media may define what language is socially acceptable, but the people go on expressing themselves as they want to. Actually I must admit that I chose a bad example in 'Posh', because for the reason you give that is an example which could conceivably have happened - it's just that there is no evidence at all for either the phrase or the practice. But there are many more acronymic etymythologies floating around. –  Colin Fine Feb 18 '11 at 15:20
1  
There have been periods before the 19th century when literacy amongst non-elite people was not uncommon (many Roman and Greek slaves were literate, for example, and there is evidence that at least basic literacy was common among townspeople in many parts of mediaeval Ireland), but even more importantly, up until quite late in history, most Western languages had no standardised orthographies: people spelt words as they pronounced them, which makes influence from spelling to writing quite difficult. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 20 '13 at 0:13
add comment

protected by tchrist Mar 25 at 0:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.