What is the origin of the word cum? I'm trying to find the roots for its prevalent usage, especially in North America.

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    Yes, I am referring to sperm. Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 20:42
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    Such nonsense! It means "together with" and is actually a Latin preposition with the same meaning as in English. Oh you mean... Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 23:37
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    I thought it was short for "come to climax", but that's just a guess.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 23:16
  • When used as a noun, it usually refers to sperm. When used as a verb, it can be used to describe both men and women. You didn't mention part of speech, although @Kevin made that helpful distinction in his answer, i.e. between noun and verb. Commented May 26, 2023 at 10:07

5 Answers 5


It's an informal way of spelling 'to come', which can mean having an orgasm. How exactly that verb has become associated with sexual acts is unclear (to me). My best guess would be that it was commonly used in a phrase similar to:

I'm coming to an orgasm!

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    Was the first example specifically meant to testify of single-m usage? Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 3:40
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    "The vicar's late coming!", said Mrs Brown, stirring her tea with the other hand. :)
    – user9682
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 11:33

Etymonline explains:

cum (verb and noun) seems to be a modern (by 1973) variant of the sexual sense of come that originated in pornographic writing, perhaps first in the noun sense. This "experience sexual orgasm" slang meaning of come (perhaps originally come off) is attested from 1650, in "Walking In A Meadowe Greene," in a folio of "loose songs" collected by Bishop Percy. [...]

As a noun meaning "semen or other product of orgasm" it is on record from the 1920s. The sexual cum seems to have no connection with Latin cum, the preposition meaning "with, together with," [...].

To this, I will add that as far as the verb come is concerned, there are similar constructions in German (kommen) and French (arriver).

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    and also Italian (venire)
    – hawbsl
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 0:18
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    Dutch (klaar)komen. Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 3:38
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    P.S. Only used as a verb. Komen = to come in normal language. Funnily, it is not considered vulgar at all, as far as sexual terms go: it is rather neutral, because it is non-graphic. Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 12:22
  • In Japanese it is iku (to go).
    – user184130
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 8:27
  • This tells us when this spelling appeared, but not why (which would be a part of a full account of its 'roots', that the question was about). In particular, it would be interesting to know whether the people who started the practice in the seventies consciously created the spelling in order to more clearly separate the sex-related sense of the word from its primary sense, or the practice emerged from somebody's having mistakenly though that these are entirely different words which had already had different spellings.
    – jsw29
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:00

The Oxford English Dictionary has a definition for "Come" that first developed in 1440 that may have the answer for the double entendre that is "Cum."

When roasting certain grains during the malting process, the malt rises at the top and sometimes shoots off. This was referred to as the "come." Like in this example, "In Corn, [the Radicle] is that Part, which Malsters, upon its shooting forth, call the Come."

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    Gee, who would ever have connected sexual activity with alcohol manufacturing? ;)
    – O.M.Y.
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 19:59

According to Etymonline.com, the noun cum has had its current sexual connotation since the 1920s. As a verb, it goes back much farther.


I think it is how people with poor written English language skills believed the verb "to come" (to orgasm) was spelled. The misspelling results from confusion with a shortened form of the word "scum" (as in "scumbag") referring to male ejaculate.


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