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How long has the f-word been in use as an abusive term?
What makes a word offensive?

I recognize that this is similar to Etymology of the term "curse words" and "swear words" and What makes a word offensive?, but it’s not exactly the same: the former question is asking about the origin of the term curse words, not the origin of the curse words themselves, while the latter question is asking about what fundamentally makes a word taboo in society. I’m only interested in the history of a certain word in reference to its meaning, not its usage.

With that out of the way, my question is, how did the word fuck come to be? I looked up its etymology and found this:

ORIGIN early 16th cent.: of Germanic origin (compare Swedish dialect focka and Dutch dialect fokkelen); possibly from an Indo-European root meaning ‘strike,’ shared by Latin pugnus ‘fist.’

But I don’t understand how a word being strike came to mean have sexual intercourse with (someone).

  • I know it for the German equivalent, but I'm not sure how far that is substantive to the English word. But you should also have a look at the word fidget
    – Em1
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 8:57
  • 2
    I think the etymology at Etymonline is as comprehensive as you'll get. Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 9:08
  • 1
    @qegal Compare modern slang terms like “I’d hit it” or the fact that vigorous sex can be described as pounding, banging, etc. All words that literally have to do with some kind of striking being used to describe sex. Not at all an uncommon development. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 20:27
  • @tchrist What's the rationale for the "search engine pessimization" here? I thought the entire point of keeping duplicates around was to act as alternate search gateways to the canonical answer. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 21:00
  • @MartinSmith Because of the chance that we’ll get blocked if our titles have Carlin-words in them. So we obfuscate such words in the titles only.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 21:07

1 Answer 1


according to various German online dictionaries, ficken – the German word for it – means both to poke and to rub or move back and forth...

Surely the word became taboo at the when Christianity "outlawed" it. Not meaning to bad mouth Christianity here, but many forms of sexual intercourse were indeed punishable by death in the dark ages.

  • 1
    But does the english version come from the "ficken"?
    – pasawaya
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 9:02
  • @qegal No, both words have the same root. On a German wiki page I just even read that the vulgar meaning first was quoted in English and 100 years later first time in German.
    – Em1
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 9:09
  • You're right I think: "The Oxford English Dictionary states that the ultimate etymology [of "fuck"] is uncertain, but that the word is "probably cognate" with a number of native Germanic words with meanings involving striking, rubbing, and having sex. "
    – pasawaya
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 9:10
  • etymonline.com/index.php?term=fuck is a better explanation than I can give...
    – Born2Smile
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 9:10
  • Regarding the "dark ages," it is not in general true that homosexuality/sodomy was punishable by death in the middle ages, although that certainly became more and more the case as the middle ages transitioned to the early modern era. Most of the brutality that we think of as "medieval" -- torture, burning, witch-hunts, sexual repression -- is much more representative of the modern era than the middle ages.
    – Nick
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 19:55

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