31

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?

14
  • 2
    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. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 11:40
  • 3
    @MετάEd I believe that knew there is a Hebrew calque. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 11:52
  • 5
    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.’ Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 12:04
  • 6
    @AndrewLeach: Is that why I hear "that fucking congressman" so often?
    – dotancohen
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 13:13
  • 6
    @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. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 17:11

4 Answers 4

25

Fuck, from the 16th century.

Roger, from 1711.

Screw, from 1725.

Shag, from 1788.

What a great question.

5
  • I'd add “poke”, but I cannot say when it was used in that sense.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 14:45
  • 4
    Fuck is from well before the 16th century, though it's not often attested because of its vulgarity.
    – siride
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 1:08
  • 11
    Roger that!‏‏‏‏
    – dotancohen
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 7:08
  • 2
    I love how specific these are. If only we knew exactly which day in 1711 ole Jimmy boy gave Sally a good rogering..
    – OJFord
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 22:44
  • 1
    @siride If I am not mistaken, George Carlin talked about it here. Also, I have been a fan of historical fiction, and I have read some of Horatio Alger Jr's works, and I found out that he was accused of 'Abominable and Revolting Crime of Gross Familiarity.' This may have been a euphemism at the time for sex abuse. Commented May 10, 2021 at 11:35
13

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?

1
  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 16:47
9

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

5

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."

2
  • Not to be confused with formication. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 13:14
  • 1
    My Sainted Ant!
    – bmargulies
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:40

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