When I check the etymology of erogenous in OED, it is mentioned that it is incorrectly formed (along with erogenic).

Etymology of erogenous from OED:

formed as erogenic adj. + -ous suffix.
Both words are incorrectly formed.

Etymology of erogenic from OED:

< Greek ἔρως sexual love + -genic comb. form: after French érogénique.

Etymonline explains as below:

"inducing erotic sensation or sexual desire," 1889, from Greek eros "sexual love" (see Eros) + -genous "producing." A slightly earlier variant was erogenic (1887), from French érogénique.

I thought it might be something to do with the suffixes -genous and -ous, but the usage of them makes sense unless I'm missing something.

-genous: word-forming element meaning "generating, producing, yielding;" see -gen + -ous. In modern formations, making adjectives corresponding to words in -gen.

-ous: word-forming element making adjectives from nouns, meaning "having, full of, having to do with, doing, inclined to," from Old French -ous, -eux, from Latin -osus

-genic: word-forming element meaning "producing, pertaining to generation;" see -gen + -ic.


Etymonline mentions as inducing erotic sensation but it doesn't seem like a big leap if we say producing erotic sensation because of the suffix -genous. Although, it might require stimulation as the phrase erogenous zone suggests.

Additionally, another similar word indigenous is directly from Latin but it is formed with the suffix -ous also.

late Latin indigenus born in a country, native ( < indigena a native: see indigene adj. and n.) + -ous suffix. [OED]

After all, I'm still not sure why erogenous and erogenic are mentioned as incorrectly formed. Is it related to the suffixes or the early usage of the word?

We also have érogénique in French and erógeno in Spanish. Are they incorrectly formed also?

  • 1
    They may believe that joining a Greek root to a Latin/French suffix is incorrect. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 2:46
  • @Peter - they might though it doesn't mean it is incorrect as there are plenty of words formed that way. "Television" for one =)
    – Rossitten
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 5:05
  • @Ermanen. I have just checked what Etymology.com had t say on this. Here is what it says "A slightly earlier variant was erogenic (1887), from French érogénique. Both, as OED laments, are improperly formed." In my opinion it says that both "erogenic" and "érogénique" are improperly formed while "erogenous" is correct. At least it could be understood this way.
    – Rossitten
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 5:14
  • Rey says érotogène only has the sense of aphrodisiac, whereas erogène has the "zone" has you mention and the meaning you refer to. He also lists érotologie, érotologue, and érotomanie/érotomane (and the érotomaniaque archaic variant). Référence to erôtikos from erôs, erôtos as per answer.
    – user98955
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 6:09
  • Perhaps linguists are too embarrassed to be pedantic about these words when they were first used.
    – Sanchises
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


The stem of the Greek noun erôs "love, desire" is normally erôt-, not er-. So it should be erotogenic or erotogenous in English. Cf. phôs, phôt- "light", as in photograph, not *phograph; erotic, not *eric.

That said, there are forms in Greek that use erô- and era- as stems, like the verb eraô/erô, "I love". It's just that er(a)- is the ultimate root of all these words, but the stem of the noun is normally erôt-. Ancient Greek has many dialects and oddities, and some writers even use erô- as the stem of the noun in certain forms. So perhaps erogenous is defensible, but it's not standard Attic, so it is not the way a normal formation of a Latin or modern word based on Greek is supposed to go.

  • 2
    Awesome, now go back to your position to defend Hell! Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 8:47
  • I took the liberty of getting rid of the possible reading that every word in the world stems from the root ἐρ-. ;-) Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:38
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet: Hah, writing that, I knew some OCD person would be unable to control himself... Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 21:58
  • 1
    Tut tut! CDO—in alphabetical order, the way it's supposed to be, silly! Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 22:11
  • 2
    @PierreArlaud: Thank you! My main function is stopping souls from escaping the underworld, though... Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 0:25

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