Once upon a time, happy ending was only used in the context of fiction. But since then, it's been used as a euphemism for sexual release at the end of an erotic massage.

When did "Happy ending" get the second meaning? Was this meaning made popular by non-native speakers of English?

Google NGrams isn't useful because of the existing meaning, and the Online Etymology Dictionary pointedly only refers to the original meaning:

Happy ending in the literary sense recorded from 1756.


3 Answers 3


OED has the earliest citation of the slang term happy ending from 1999:

‘We are seeing more and more women accompanying their men in here,’ she says of her parlour, which provides ‘massage only’ but with a guaranteed ‘happy ending’.

Weekend Austral. (Nexis) 14 Aug. (Review section) 8

  • Cassel's dictionary of slang says 2000s for happy endings so OED is probably right. I also briefly checked Ngram by including the word massage but couldn't find anything earlier than 1999.
    – ermanen
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 1:13

The following analysis by Grammarphobia does not cite when the expression was first used euphemistically, but it provides interesting facts:

Happy ending:

  • Both the noun “end” and the gerund “ending” mean, among other things, a conclusion. So “happy end” and “happy ending” would seem to mean the same thing.

  • Although both are technical correct, “happy ending” is the idiomatic phrase (the one used naturally by a native speaker) when referring to the happy conclusion of a novel, play, movie, and so on.

  • The earliest example of the expression in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Memorable Conceits, a 1602 translation of a book by the French writer and printer Gilles Corrozet:

    • “A good entrie or beginning is not all, without it haue a happie ending.” (In the original French, “happie ending” is heureuse issue.)
  • And here’s a citation from a May 10, 1748, letter by Samuel Richardson in which he discusses a scene from his recently published novel Clarissa:

    • “The greater Vulgar, as well as the less, had rather it had had what they call, an Happy Ending.”
  • The OED defines “happy ending” as “an ending in a novel, play, etc., in which the plot achieves a happy resolution (esp. by marriage, continued good health, etc.), of a type sometimes regarded as trite or conventional.”

According to the source, the OED does not provide usage examples with the euphemistic meaning, but @ermanem has actually cited one:

  • The dictionary adds that in the US the phrase is also used for “an orgasm, esp. one experienced by a man after sexual stimulation given after (or during) a massage.”

  • The OED doesn’t have an example of this usage, but the comedian Jim Norton uses the phrase in the sexual sense in the title of his 2007 book, Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch. The cover shows him lying on a massage table.


Olivia Newton John's song in 1978, "A Little More Love," has the lyrics from John Farrar about a happy ending.

But it gets me nowhere to tell you "no"
It gets me nowhere to make you go
Will a little more love make you
Star depending
Will a little more love
Bring a happy ending
Will a little more love make it right
Will a little more love make it right.

  • 1
    Can you explain how your example relates to the question? What is the new information you bring?
    – fev
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 14:19

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