Asking this question in strict propriety out of genuine curiosity, why is that in (American) English animal-related names are used for vulgar names for the private body parts? In fact, all of the examples I can think of, at least one vulgar term for each body seems to come from an animal. I am sure there are exceptions but even then, why are they so common? What is this fascination with having animal names as "dirty" words, i.e.

  1. Cock - A rooster
  2. Pussy - A cat
  3. Tits - A small bird
  4. Ass - A donkey - okay I see this so this can be taken out.

Is this only in America or does it happen in other parts of the English-speaking world as well?

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    #3 is merely coincidental.
    – J.R.
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 0:29
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    The fact that they are body parts does not make them "dirty" words; however, dictionaries recognize these words as vulgar slang, and label them as such, unlike words like, say, testicle. See entries here here & here; other dictionary labels include impolite and taboo.
    – J.R.
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 0:48
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    I know this exact question got asked before. I can't find the original, so it must have been nuked. Probably for much the same reason as this question is about to be: four examples do not a pattern make. Granted, your statement that "all of the examples I can think of, at least one vulgar term for each body seems to come from an animal" does suggest you are genuinely under the impression that the human body consists entirely of genitals, buttocks and mammary glands — but I assure you that that is not the case.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 1:24
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    @RegDwighт And don't need to be so condescending, yes I know there are more body parts. I was thinking of sexual organs because more often than not, usually in society those sexual organs are the ones which are "taboo" and they have the "dirty" and "vulgar" names. Is there a vulgar name for your eyes or hair that you can think of? It is also a part of the human body. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 1:31
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    "Ass" only means bottom in American English. It does not, in England and the rest of the UK which use the English word arse.
    – Tristan
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 10:19

3 Answers 3


In all these cases there is no link to the animal

Cock - A rooster

The body part is probably from cock to mean raise up, as in "cocking a gun". The bird is old English/Scandanavia

Pussy - A cat

The body part is much older from Scandanavian/OE word for a pocket or bag. The cat is newer and probably just a childish onomatopoeia for soft/furry

Tits - A small bird

The body part is from teats and the French Teton. The bird is from Scandanavian for any small animal, cf Titmouse

Ass - A donkey - okay I see this so this can be taken out.

There is no conection between the words, The body part is OE ærs, Assa is latin . See Why are the "donkey" and the "butt" both named "ass"?

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    Thanks this is exactly what I was looking for. I figured it was probably something like this but wasn't sure. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 1:11

By no means have you got an exhaustive list. Just for the penis there are words like dick, johnson and willy that are not animal names - and dozens more that I'm not prepared to type. There are literally hundreds of names for the sexual organs and so it's not surprising that some of them are animal names - probably almost any category of nouns will include some euphemisms. For example, many of the words are food: salami, clam, melons etc. I think you see a pattern that doesn't actually exist.

  • I know it isn't an exhaustive list. But I did say that I could think of at least one name which seemed to me like it was from an animal. I wasn't implying that all vulgar nicknames for a penis come from animals. And yes, I know a sample size of three is very small. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 1:09
  • -1 That's a comment, not an answer. A strong enough argument against the OP's for sure, though.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 5:35
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    @Kris You'll have to explain how a response which you characterize as a strong argument against the OP's assumptions is also not an answer.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 23:29
  • @MετάEd & 1 more: I will have to? Lol.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 5:47
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    @Kris Yes -- if you want to be understood, which I assume is the point of posting ...
    – MetaEd
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 5:58

Well a couple of them are vague. But, across most european languages I can think of some animals names or plant names that are used as synonyms for genitalia. A great example would be the french "La Chatte" which coincidentally explains that weird giggle all french teachers get when students emphasise the t in Le Chat (case in point should be read le Cha' for a cat and La Chatt' for something else), I think the swedes call it "en mus" (a mouse), and its "Die Schnäggli" in swiss german (the snail). I think I've also heard it called "Den Laks" or something similar in either Norwegian or Danish (I speak neither well enough to tell, nor know any Norwegians or Danes well enough to ask). But, just as there are loads of metaphoric animal genitals, there are loads of metaphoric inanimate genitals and edible genitals. The take home, people tend to think in metaphor and simile; especially when talking dirty.

  • Welcome to EL&U, your answer is about non-English terms; the OP is requesting English animal related names and this site is about EL&U
    – 7caifyi
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:31

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