Latin obscenity is the profane, indecent, or impolite vocabulary of Latin, and its uses. Words deemed obscene were described as obsc(a)ena (obscene, lewd, unfit for public use), or improba (improper, in poor taste, undignified). Documented obscenities occurred rarely in classical Latin literature, limited to certain types of writing such as epigrams, but they are commonly used in the graffiti written on the walls of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Among the documents of interest in this area is a letter written by Cicero in 45 BC (ad Fam. 9.22) to a friend called Paetus, in which he alludes to a number of obscene words without actually naming them.
Apart from graffiti, the writers who used obscene words most were Catullus and Martial in their shorter poems. Another source is the anonymous Priapeia (see External links below), a collection of 95 epigrams supposedly written to adorn statues of the fertility god Priapus, whose wooden image was customarily set up to protect orchards against thieves. The earlier poems of Horace also contained some obscenities. However, the satirists Persius and Juvenal, although often describing obscene acts, did so without mentioning the obscene words.
Medical, especially veterinary, texts also use certain anatomical words that, outside of their technical context, might have been considered obscene.
In a letter to one of his friends, written about 45 BC, Cicero discusses a number of obscenities in Latin. It appears that the friend, Lucius Papirius Paetus, (whose letters to Cicero have not been preserved) had used the word mentula ("penis") in one of his letters. Cicero praises him for his forthrightness, which he says conforms to the teachings of the Stoic philosophers, but says that he himself prefers modesty (ver?cundia).
In the letter Cicero alludes to a number of obscene words, without actually mentioning them. The words which he alludes to but avoids are: c?lus ("arsehole"), mentula ("penis"), cunnus ("cunt"), land?ca ("clitoris"), and c?le? ("testicles"). He also objects to words which mean "to fuck", as well as to the Latin word b?n? "two" because for bilingual speakers it sounds like the Greek (bineî) ("he fucks or sodomises"), and also to two words for passing wind, v?ssi? and p?d?. He does not object to using the word ?nus, and says that p?nis, which in his day was obscene, was formerly just a euphemism meaning "tail".
There thus appear to have been various degrees of obscenity in Latin, with words for anything to do with sex in the most obscene category. These words are strictly avoided in most types of Latin literature; however, they are common in graffiti, and also in certain genres of poetry, such as the short poems known as epigrams, such as those written by Catullus and Martial. The poet Horace also used obscenities in his early poems, that is the Epodes and the first book of Satires, but later writers of satire such as Juvenal and Persius avoided the coarser words even when discussing obscene topics. There were, however, some occasions in public life, such as in triumphal processions, at weddings, and at certain festivals, where obscenities were traditionally allowed. The purpose of these was presumably twofold, first to ward off the evil eye or potential envy of the gods, and second to promote fertility.
A very common way of avoiding words for sexual acts was simply to omit the word in question. J.N. Adams collects numerous examples of this. For example, in Horace (Epodes 12.15):
Another way was to substitute the taboo word with a milder one or a metaphor, for example using cl?n?s ("rump (of an animal)") for c?lus or testicul? for c?le?.
Sometimes the offending word was replaced by a pronoun such as istuc ("that") or an adverb such as ill?c ("there"), as in Martial (11.104.16):
Mentula is the basic Latin word for penis. It is used 48 times in Martial, 26 times in the Priapeia, and 18 times in Pompeian inscriptions. Its status as a basic obscenity is confirmed by the Priapeia 29, in which mentula and cunnus are given as ideal examples of obscene words:
Martial mocks a friend who despised effeminate clothing, explaining why he suspects that he is secretly homosexual:
The etymology of mentula is obscure, although outwardly it would appear to be a diminutive of m?ns, gen. mentis, the "mind" (i.e.; "the little mind"). Cicero's letter 9:22 ad Familiares relates it to menta, a spearmint stalk. Tucker's Etymological Dictionary of Latin relates it to ?min?re, "to project outwards", mentum, "chin", and m?ns, "a mountain", all of which suggest an Indo-European root *men-. Other hypotheses have also been suggested, though none generally accepted.
Verpa is also a basic Latin obscenity for "penis", in particular for a penis in an erect state with the glans bare, as in the illustration of the god Mercury below. It was "not a neutral technical term, but an emotive and highly offensive word" (Adams), used especially in contexts of aggressive homosexual acts rather than mere fut?ti? ("fucking"). It is found frequently in graffiti of the type verpes (= verpa es) qu? istuc leg?s ("Whoever reads this, you're a dickhead").
It is found less frequently in Classical Latin literature, but it does appear in Catullus 28:
Catullus is here speaking metaphorically. He complains that when he accompanied Gaius Memmius, the governor of Bithynia (57-56 BC), as part of his entourage, he was not allowed to make money out of the position. From this poem it is clear that Catullus's friends Veranius and Fabullus were kept under an equally close rein when they accompanied Lucius Piso to his province of Macedonia in 57-55 BC.
And in poem 47 Catullus writes:
In Martial's time it was a common practice for actors and athletes to be fitted with a f?bula (a pin or brooch through their foreskin) to discourage sex and to preserve their voice or strength. Martial (7.81) mocks one such actor as follows:
A third word for "penis" was m?t?, m?t?nis (or mutt?, mutt?nis). This is very rare and found only in one line of Horace and a fragment of the satirist Lucilius. The passage in Horace (Sat. 1.2.68) is as follows, in which he advises a young man who was beaten up as a result of an affair with the dictator Sulla's daughter:
And Lucilius says:
Although m?t? itself is rare, the derivative m?t?ni?tus ("well-endowed") is found twice in Martial, as at 3.73:
The derivative m?t?nium is found in Lucilius and in two Pompeian graffiti.
The Latin word p?nis itself originally meant "tail". Cicero's ad Famili?r?s, 9.22, observes that p?nis originally was an innocuous word, but that the meaning of male sexual organ had become primary by his day. The euphemism is used occasionally by Catullus, Persius, Juvenal, and Martial, and even once by the historian Sallust, who writes that the supporters of the anti-government rebel Catiline included
Commenting on this passage, St Augustine notes that Sallust's use of the term in this phrase was not offensive. The word did not survive into Romance, however, and occurs only once in a Pompeian inscription.
Juvenal, showing his knack for describing grossly obscene matters without using taboo words, writes as follows in one of his satires (9.43-4):
The obscure word s?pi? (gen. s?pi?nis) seems to have meant a sexualized caricature with an abnormally large penis, such as the Romans were known to draw. It appears in Catullus 37:
and in a graffito from Pompeii:
The grammarian Sacerdos preserves a quotation about Pompey, that says quem non pudet et rubet, n?n est hom?, sed s?pi? ("whoever is not ashamed, and does not blush, is not a man, but a sopio.") S?pi? would appear to describe drawings such as that of the god Mercury in the illustration.
A draucus (the word occurs only in Martial), according to Housman, was a man "who performs feats of strength in public". Rabun Taylor disagrees and sees a draucus more as a kind of rent boy who hung around in the baths in search of patrons. A gallus was an emasculated member of the cult of Cybele; according to Taylor (1997), they had much in common with the hijras of India today.
Another euphemism for the penis was cauda ("tail"), which occurs twice in Horace, and continues today in the French derivative queue ("tail" or "penis"). In one place in his Satires (Serm. 2.7.50) Horace writes:
For the metaphorical use of meiere ("to piss"), see below.
The words nervus ("nerve" or "sinew") and fascinum or fascinus, which meant a phallic image or amulet in the form of a penis, were also sometimes used as euphemisms for the penis. In one of Horace's Epodes (12) a woman boasts of one of her lovers, Coan Amyntas,
Yet another euphemism is c?l?s or c?lis or caulis, which literally means the stem or stalk of a plant (such as a cabbage, onion, or vine). This word was used by the satirist Lucilius and by the medical writer Celsus (6.18.2). In the same passage, Celsus refers to the foreskin as cutis "skin", and to the glans as gl?ns "acorn". Martial also uses the word gl?ns in an obscene pun (12.75.3):
The participle arr?ctus means 'erect'. Martial describes the habit of a certain girl of weighing a lover's penis in her hand (10.55.1):
Martial uses the word rigidam ("a hard one") alone to refer to a penis in the following line, mocking a certain Greek philosopher who despite his beard was effeminate (9.47.6):
Another word for "erect" was tentus ("stretched, extended"). Priapus is addressed as tente Pri?pe in Pri?peia 81, and as being fascin? gravis tent? ("heavy with an extended phallus") in Pri?peia 79.
Similarly in Priapeia 33.5, the god Priapus says:
An adjective to describe a penis which refused to become erect was languida. Ovid (Am?r?s 3.7.65-6):
And a girlfriend of Horace's chides him with the words (Epodes 12):
While Catullus (67.23) speaks of an impotent husband in these terms:
Mentula has evolved into Sicilian and Italian minchia and South Sardinian minca. Minga also exists in Spanish. Verpa is preserved in some Romance dialects, usually with another meaning; verpile is a sort of stirrup and spur in a Calabrian dialect, possibly named for its shape. Most Romance languages have adopted metaphorical euphemisms as the chief words for the penis; as in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian verga, obscene for penis, and in Romanian varg? (although pul? is far more common), in Catalan and French verge, from Latin virga, "staff", and French queue ("tail"), from Latin cauda/c?da "tail". The Portuguese caralho "penis", first attested in the 10th century, is thought to derive from a vulgar Latin word *caraculum "a little stake". The Italian cazzo has no obvious Latin ancestor. A number of different suggestions have been made for its origin, but none has yet gained general acceptance.
The basic word for the testicles in Latin was c?le? (singular: c?leus). It appears to have had an alternative form *c?le?n?s (singular: c?le?), from which the Spanish cojones and other Romance forms are derived. (One late Latin source has the spelling culiones).
The etymology of c?le? is obscure. Tucker, without explanation, gives *qogh-sle?-os (*kwogh-sley-os?), and relates it to cohum, an obscure word for "yoke".
Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary relates the word to culleus ("a leather sack for liquids"). However, this etymology is not generally accepted today, and according to the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae the etymology is unknown. In texts, the word for testicles is always spelled with col- not cull-, and is plural.
Cicero in his letter discussing obscene Latin words (ad Fam. 9.22) says at one point honest? c?le? L?nuv?n?, Cl?tern?n? n?n honest? ("Lanuvian c?le? are respectable, but "Cliternian" ones are indecent"). (Lanuvium and Cliternia were small towns not far from Rome.) However, the meaning of these phrases is not known, according to the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.
The word occurs in Petronius (44):
Martial (9.27) writes of a philosopher who had depilated his balls as well as the rest of his legs, using a pair of volsellae (tweezers):
The form of the line is reminiscent of the proverbial sayings of Publilius Syrus, many of which employ the same metre.
The more decent word in Latin for testicles was test?s (sing. testis). This word may have derived from the Latin for "witnesses". Cicero's letter says "test?s" verbum honestissimum in i?dici?, ali? loc? n?n nimis. ("In a court of law, witnesses is a quite decent word; not too much so elsewhere.") Katz (1998) draws attention to the fact that in some cultures it was customary to take a solemn oath while laying hands on the testicles either of a living person (as in Genesis 24:2-4; 47:29-31), or of a sacrificed animal (as described in Demosthenes 23.67f); a similar ritual took place in Umbria when dedicating a sacrificial animal. According to Katz, the word testis itself appears to be derived from the root trityo- ("third") and originally meant a third party.
The two meanings of test?s open the door for puns such as the following from Martial (2.72):
Or Cicero's test?s ?gregi?s! ("outstanding witnesses!") in his amusing account of two witnesses hiding naked in a public bathhouse.
The diminutive testicul? was entirely confined to the anatomical sense; it is used 33 times by the medical writer Celsus, but testis not at all. The satirists Persius and Juvenal also used the word testicul?. Veterinary writers use both testis and testiculus.
In Catullus (63.5), the testicles are famously referred to as pondera ("weights"), perhaps a metaphor of the weights hung on threads of a loom. The exact words of the text here are disputed, but the general sense is clear:
Ovid (Fasti 2.241) recounting the same story, and perhaps implying that Attis removed the whole organ, similarly uses the phrase onus inguinis ("the burden of his groin").
Other euphemisms are used in other writers. Ovid (Am?r?s 2.3) uses the phrase membra genit?lia:
C?le?n?s is productive in most of the Romance languages: cf. Italian coglioni, French couilles, couillons; Portuguese colhões, Galician collóns, collois, collós, Catalan collons, Sardinian cozzones, Romanian coi, coaie, Spanish cojones (now a loanword in English).
Cunnus was the basic Latin word for the vulva. The Priapeia mention it in connection with mentula, above. Despite its similarity to "cunt", the Oxford English Dictionary cautions that the two words may have developed from different roots.
Cunnus has a distinguished Indo-European lineage. It is cognate with Persian kun "anus" and kos "vulva", and with Greek (kusthos). Tucker and de Vaan derive it from an Indo-European *kut-nos akin to Welsh cwd 'bag, scrotum'.
Cicero's Orator (ad Marcum Brutum) §154 confirms its obscene status. Cicero writes:
Because the /m/ of cum assimilates to the /n/ of n?b?s, cum n?b?s sounds very similar to cunn? bis, meaning "in/from/with a cunt twice". A similar euphemism occurs in French: the avoidance of qu'on, homophone to con (cunt), by the insertion of a superfluous letter: que l'on.
Horace, however, uses the word cunnus in his Satires (Sermones) at 1.2.70, and again at 1.3.105:
Martial also uses it freely, for example (3.87):
The word cunnilingus occurs in literary Latin, most frequently in Martial; it denotes the person who performs the action, not the action itself as in modern English, where it is not obscene but technical. The term comes from the Latin word for the vulva (cunnus) and the verb "to lick" (linguere, cf. lingua "tongue").
These include sinus, "indentation", and fossa, "ditch".
The modern scientific or polite words vulva and vagina both stem from Latin, but originally they had different meanings. The word v?g?na is the Latin word for scabbard or sword-sheath.
Vulva (or volva) in classical Latin generally signified the womb, especially in medical writing, and also it is also common in the Vetus Latina (pre-Jerome) version of the Bible. The meanings of vagina and vulva have changed by means of metaphor and metonymy, respectively. Other words for the womb are uterus, m?tr?x (in later Latin), venter ("belly"), and alvus (also "belly"). At Juvenal 6.129, however, the word volva is used of the vagina or clitoris of the (allegedly) nymphomaniac empress Messalina, who is described as departing from a session in a brothel:
Cunnus is preserved in almost every Romance language: e.g. French con, Catalan cony, Spanish coño, Galician cona, Portuguese cona, (South) Sardinian cunnu, Old Italian cunna. In Calabrian dialects the forms cunnu (m.) and cunna (f.) are used as synonyms of "stupid, dumb"; the same is true of the French con, conne and in fact this has become the primary meaning of the words, both eclipsing the genital sense and significantly reducing the word's obscenity. In Portuguese it has been transferred to the feminine gender; the form cunna is also attested in Pompeian graffiti and in some late Latin texts.
The ancient Romans had medical knowledge of the clitoris, and their native word for it was land?ca. This appears to have been one of the most obscene words in the entire Latin lexicon. It is alluded to, but does not appear, in literary sources, except in the Priapeia 79, which calls it misella landica, the "poor little clitoris". It does, however, appear in graffiti.
Not even the poets Catullus and Martial, whose frankness is notorious, ever refer to land?ca. In a letter to a friend,Cicero discusses which words in Latin are potentially obscene or subject to obscene punning, and there hints at the word land?ca by quoting an unintentionally obscene utterance made in the Senate:
with illam d?cam echoing the forbidden word. Note that the "m" at the end of "illam" was pronounced like "n" before the following "d."
The word land?ca is found in Roman graffiti: peto [la]ndicam fvlviae ("I seek Fulvia's clitoris") appears on a leaden projectile found at Perugia left over from the Perusine War, while a derivative word is found in Pompeii: evpl(i)a laxa landicosa ("Euplia (is) loose and has a large clitoris").
It also occurs in Priapeia 78.5 (in some versions 79.5), where a girl who has received the attentions of a cunnilingus is described as suffering from land?cae ... foss?s ("cracks in her clitoris"). The word also occurs twice in a medical context in a 5th-6th century Latin translation of Soranus of Ephesus's book on gynaecology.
Fay (1907) suggests one possible etymology as (g)land?ca ("a little gland").
In the Satires of Juvenal it is referred to euphemistically as a crista, "crest" in this line (6.420), describing a lady's massage after an exercise session:
The basic Latin word for the anus was c?lus. Though not very common, it occurs in both Catullus and Martial, and is productive in Romance. The word is of uncertain etymology, according to Adams.
In the texts c?lus appears to be used only of humans. It was associated with both defecation and with sex. Catullus (23) mocks a certain Furius with these words:
Martial (2.51) mocks a passive homosexual in these terms:
The word p?dex was synonymous with c?lus, "arsehole". This word is thought to be an o-stem version of the same root as p?dere "to fart", identifying it as the source of flatulence. Lewis and Short's Dictionary cites only two instances. In an unattractive picture of an old woman Horace (Epodes 8.6) writes:
Juvenal (2.12), writing of outwardly virile but in practice effeminate philosophers, writes:
The implication is that the piles have been caused by anal sex; that such anal piles or sores are caused by sex is a common theme in the poems of Martial.
P?dex seems to have been rather a rarer word than c?lus. It is not used by Catullus, and only twice by Martial. It is not found in Pompeii, and did not produce derivatives in vulgar Latin or in the Romance languages. The fact that it is used once by Juvenal (who avoided obscene vocabulary) shows that it was less offensive than c?lus. In later medical Latin, such as the 5th century Cassius Felix, it could be used as an alternative for ?nus.
A more seemly Latin word for the backside was cl?n?s (singular cl?nis) "buttocks"; this word was generally more decent than c?lus, and older, as well: it has several Indo-European cognates. It can be used for the rump of animals as well as humans, and even birds. The word is usually plural but sometimes singular. In the same satire quoted above Juvenal (2.20-21) speaks scathingly of philosophers who have double standards, preaching about virtue but practising vice:
Another word for buttocks, slightly less common, was nat?s, which is generally used only of the buttocks of humans. It seems to have been a more vulgar or colloquial word than cl?n?s. In one of the Priapeia epigrams (22, in some editions 21) the god Priapus threatens potential thieves with punishment as follows:
?nus was the name for the posterior opening of the digestive tract; the word is not specific to that usage, but instead originally meant "ring". Its anatomical sense drove out its other meanings, and for this reason the diminutive ?nulus became the usual Latin name for a ring or circle. In his book on agriculture, Columella describes how to treat a cow with stomach-ache:
An example of the usage of "ring" as a metaphor in a modern Romance language can be found in Brazilian Portuguese slang, in which the word anel can have the same double meaning, especially in the expression o anel de couro (the leather ring). "Ring" is also British slang for "anus".
C?lus has been preserved as meaning the buttocks (rather than the anus) in most Romance languages except for Portuguese, which kept the original semantics. It yields the forms culo in Spanish and Italian; in French and Catalan it becomes cul, in Romanian cur, in Vegliot Dalmatian ?ol, in Sardinian culu, in Portuguese cu and in Galician cu. Its offensiveness varies from one language to another; in French it was incorporated into ordinary words and expressions such as culottes, "breeches", and cul-de-sac.
The etymology of futu? is "obscure". It may be related to ref?t? "repel, rebut" and c?nf?t?, "suppress" or "beat down", and come from a root meaning "beat".
Futu? is richly attested in all its forms in Latin literature. In one poem (10.81.1) Martial writes, using the supine:
Not only the word itself, but also derived words such as d?fut?ta, "fucked out, exhausted from sex" (Catullus 41), diffut?ta (Catullus 29, same meaning), and c?nfutuere "to have sex with" (Catullus 37) are attested in Classical Latin literature. The derived noun fut?ti?, "act of intercourse", also exists in Classical Latin, and the nomen agentis fut?tor, which corresponds to the English epithet "fucker", but lacking the derogatory tone of the English word. The god Priapus says in one poem (Priapeia 63):
It is also used metaphorically in Catullus 6, which speaks of latera ecfut?ta, funds exhausted, literally "fucked away".
Futu?, unlike the English word "fuck", was more frequently used in erotic and celebratory senses rather than derogatory ones or insults. A woman of Pompeii wrote the graffito fututa sum hic ("I got laid here") and prostitutes, canny at marketing, appear to have written other graffiti complimenting their customers for their sexual prowess:
It is famously used in Catullus 32:
Futu? in its active voice was used of women only when it was imagined that they were taking the active role thought appropriate to the male partner by the Romans. The woman in Martial 7.70 is described as a tribas, a lesbian.
Other more neutral synonyms for futu? in Latin include ine?, in?re, literally "to enter", as in this sentence from Suetonius, supposedly from a letter written by Mark Antony (lover of Queen Cleopatra) to his brother-in-law Octavian (later to become the Emperor Augustus):
The word coe?, co?re, literally "to go with," whence Latin and English coitus, is also used euphemistically for sexual intercourse, but it is not exactly a synonym for futuere. It can be used for both men and women, and also of animals and birds.
Another word found on Pompeian inscriptions was c(h)al?re, which appears to be a borrowing from the Greek (khalá?) "loosen". A Pompeian inscription says Dionysius qu? hor? vult licet chal?re ("Dionysius is allowed to fuck whenever he wants to"). The Latin word lax?re appears to be used in the same sense in Priapeia 31: haec me? t? ventris arma lax?bunt ("these weapons of my belly will relax you" (of p?d?c?ti?).
Adams (1982) lists a large number of other euphemisms for the sexual act, such as this one from Juvenal (6.126):
Futu?, a core item of the lexicon, lives on in most of the Romance languages, sometimes with its sense somewhat weakened: Catalan fotre, French foutre, Spanish joder, Portuguese foder, Galician foder, Romanian fute (futere), Italian fottere. A famous ribald song in Old Occitan sometimes attributed to the troubadour William IX of Aquitaine reads:
The aggressive sense of English "fuck" and "screw" was not strongly attached to futu? in Latin. Instead, these aggressive connotations attached themselves to p?d?c?re "to sodomise" and irrum?re "to force fellatio" respectively, which were used with mock hostility in Catullus 16:
The passive voice, p?d?c?r?, is used of the person who is forced to submit to anal sex, as in Priapeia 35, in which the god Priapus threatens a thief:
There is some doubt in the dictionaries whether the correct spelling was ped- or paed- (Lewis and Short give the latter). Bücheler (1915, p. 105) argues that ped- is correct on the basis of the following epigram in the Priapeia (no. 67):
The word p?d?c?tor ("buggerer") is used in a poem by Catullus's friend the orator Licinius Calvus quoted by Suetonius (Caesar 49), in which the King of Bithynia is referred to as p?d?c?tor Caesaris ("the buggerer of Caesar"), referring to a rumour that in his youth Julius Caesar had had an affair with king Nicomedes.
Martial on the other hand preferred to use the shorter form p?d?c? or p?d?co, of the same meaning, for example at 11.87:
The activities of a p?d?co are hinted at in the following lines of Martial (12.85):
The various distinctions in sexual activity are made clear in the following poem of Martial (2.28):
The fourth line rules out Sextillus as an irrum?tor; the two remaining possibilities were in Roman eyes the most degrading, that he was either a cunnilingus or a fell?tor.
P?d?c?re is often thought to be a Greek loanword in Latin (from the noun ? (paidika) "boyfriend"), but the long "i" is an obstacle. Bücheler (1915, p. 105), who rejects this etymology, suggests there may be a connection to p?dex and p?d?.
Unlike futu?, the word p?d?c? has no reflexes in Romance. The French slang word pédé ("male homosexual") is an abbreviated form of pédéraste, according to the Dictionnaire historique de la langue française.
Irrum?re, which in English is denoted by the passive construction "to be sucked", is an active verb in Latin, since the irrum?tor was considered to be the active partner, the fell?tor the passive. Irrum?tio is the counterpart of fell?tio; in Roman terms, which are the opposite way round to modern conceptions, the giver of oral sex inserts his penis into the mouth of the receiver.
To be forced to submit to oral sex was apparently a worse punishment than to be sodomised. Martial (2.47) advises one effeminate man who is having an adulterous affair, and who would not perhaps have objected too much if the husband punished him by sodomising him:
According to Adams (1982, p. 126-7), it was a standard joke to speak of irrum?tio as a means of silencing someone. Martial (3.96) writes:
Irrum?tio was seen as a hostile act that enemies might inflict on one. An inscription says:
The word fell?re originally had an innocent sense, meaning to suck the teat or to suck milk, but in classical times the sexual sense was predominant. The verb fell? and the nouns fell?tor and (less often) the feminine fell?tr?x are common in graffiti, and the first two also occur several times in Martial's epigrams. The practice was thought particularly degrading for a man, and Martial, mocking a certain butch lesbian, writes (7.67):
Fell? was generally used absolutely, without an object. A Pompeian wall inscription says Murtis bene felas ("Myrtis, you suck well"), and another says Romula cum suo hic fellat et uubique ("Romula does fellatio with her boyfriend here and everywhere").
Fell? leaves little trace in Romance languages, being replaced by s?gere ("to suck") and its derivatives. Though it is not represented by descendants, it is represented by learned borrowings such as the French fellation.
The verb ling? ("I lick") was common in both sexual and non-sexual contexts. As a sexual term, it could have c?lum, mentulam, or cunnum as its object.
Its synonym lambere was also sometimes used in a sexual sense. Martial (3.81) criticises a eunuch who presumed to have oral sex with women:
Gl?bere "to take the bark off", "peel" and d?gl?bere "to take the husk off", "to skin, flay" are famously used in a sexual sense in two places in Latin literature by Catullus and Ausonius. It has been argued that the meaning is to pull back a man's foreskin, in order to masturbate him. Ausonius (Ep. 71), after mentioning various perversions (obsc?n?s vener?s), says:
What seems to shock Ausonius is that Crispa actively enjoyed taking an active role in such practices rather than passively submitting to male desires as was the norm.
The other sexual use of this word is in Catullus (57), who says in a moment of bitterness:
Some, noting that in Italian the phrases cavar la pelle, scorticare ("debark") can mean "strip someone of their money", and similar uses of tond?re ("to shear") and d?gl?bere ("to skin") in Latin, have argued that Catullus is also using the word in a non-sexual sense; that is, Lesbia is acting like a prostitute and fleecing the spendthrift Roman young men (nep?t?s) of their money.
C?ve? (c?v?re, c?v?) and cr?s? (cr?s?re etc.) are basic Latin obscenities that have no exact English equivalents. Cr?s? referred to the actions of the female partner in sexual intercourse (i.e. grinding or riding on a penis); as, similarly to the case in English, futu?, which is often translated "fuck", primarily referred to the male action (i.e. thrusting, pounding, slamming). C?ve? referred to the similar activity of the passive partner in anal sex.
Both of these verbs are of fairly obscure origin.
Unlike some of the vocabulary of homosexuality in Latin (pathicus, cinaedus), c?ve? seems not to be of Greek origin. Francis A. Wood relates it to an Indo-European root *kweu- or *qeu-, relating to a variety of back and forth motions.
Cr?s? appears to have had a similar meaning, but to have been used of the female. Again Martial 10.68:
These words have few synonyms or metaphors, and belong almost to a sort of technical vocabulary.
Both words seem to have been lost in Romance.
This word is found twice in the poet Martial, but apparently not in earlier writers. Martial writes in one poem (11.104):
The word masturb?tor also occurs. In 14.203 Martial writes of a Spanish girl from G?d?s (Cádiz):
Hippolytus was famous in mythology for refusing the advances of his stepmother Phaedra.
Lewis and Short suggest that the word masturb?r? may be derived from man? stupr?r? "to defile oneself with a hand", and this is the usual view, and supported ("with some hesitation") by J.N. Adams. Another view, however, is that it comes from *m?s + turb?re ("to excite the penis"), assuming an otherwise unattested meaning of "penis" for m?s ("male"). The supporters of this view cite another word mascarpi?nem (from mascarpi?), which occurs once in Latin literature in Petronius (134.5), and which appears from the context to mean "beating the penis with a wand (to stimulate it)". It is argued that in this word, the element m?s- may be the same as in masturb?r?. Yet another proposed etymology is that the element masturb- derives from a Proto-Indo-European root *mostrgh- meaning "brain, marrow", and hence "semen".
Martial (9.41) criticises a Roman gentleman for masturbating, using the phrase:
The hand used for masturbating by the Romans was evidently the left one, as Martial 11.73 confirms. (Compare also the fragment of the satirist Lucilius quoted above in the section on m?t?.)
In another poem (11.22) Martial advises a friend:
This apparently dates back to a belief of Aristotle that vigorous sexual activity caused a boy's voice to turn rapidly into that of a man.
In another poem (2.43), however, Martial admits that he himself for want of a sexual partner sometimes resorts to the practice:
In another (11.46), addressed to a man who finds it difficult in middle age to get an erection, Martial uses the word tr?d? ("I shove" or "prod") to signify masturbation:
The frequentative form of tr?d? is tr?s?re ("to thrust or shove repeatedly"). This occurs in only one place, in Catullus 56:
The meaning of tr?santem here is disputed. "Masturbating" was the interpretation of A. E. Housman; he also wanted to read pr? t?l? as pr?t?l? with the meaning "there and then". Others, however, understand Catullus to mean that the boy was caught having sex with a girl; in which case, pr?t?l? probably means "in a threesome", since a pr?t?lum, according to the agricultural writer Cato the Elder, was a team of three oxen pulling a plough. Uden (2007) translates: "I just caught a kid banging his girlfriend", explaining that p?pulum is a derogatory diminutive.
The verb caedere (literally "to cut" or "kill") is used as slang for homosexual penetration elsewhere in Latin literature, such as at Priapeia 26.10, a poem in which Priapus boasts that in his earlier days sol?bam f?r?s caedere quamlibet valent?s ("I used to 'cut' (i.e. sodomise) thieves, however strong they were").Dione, was the mother of Aphrodite, goddess of love; according to a passage in Homer's Iliad book 5, she cared for Aphrodite when the latter was pierced by Diomedes' weapon in a battle. The implication is that her services might be needed here after Catullus had dealt with the boy.
Cac?, cac?re was the chief Latin word for defecation.
The word has a distinguished Indo-European parentage, which may perhaps relate to nursery words or children's slang that tends to recur across many different cultures. It would appear to be cognate with the Greek noun , kopros, meaning "excrement" (hence, coprophilia). It also exists in Germanic; in German, Swedish (kack), Scots (as both noun and verb, cack or cackie, the diminutive), whilst English "poppiecock" derives from Dutch pappe kak, "diarrhea". It exists in Turkish (kaka), Irish and Scottish Gaelic (cac), Hebrew, Hungarian (kaka), Ukrainian (), Russian, Lithuanian and Persian/Isfahani accent (keke). In British English, "caca" is occasionally used as childish slang for excrement (similar to American English "poop"), a word whose level of obscene loading varies from country to country; whilst in Scotland and in Ireland, "cack" is occasionally used either as a mild interjection, or as an impolite adjective to mean of poor quality, broken, nonsense. It also exists as a loan in Finnish (kakka). The derivatives of this Latin word appear in Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian (cacca), Romanian, and French. Also, in Slavic languages: kakati.
The verb is usually used intransitively. Martial (1.92.11) says:
However, in the phrase below, from Catullus 36, it is transitive:
Few synonyms are attested in Classical Latin, apart from a word cun?re, attested by the grammarian Festus (but nowhere else) in the meaning stercus facere. The word d?f?c?re comes much later.
A euphemism which occurs in Petronius (116) is su? r? caus? facere:
The same euphemism is used in Petronius of relieving oneself of gas (see below).
Cac?re is preserved unaltered in Sardinian and the southern Italian dialects, and with little alteration in Italian (cagare). It becomes Galician, Catalan, Spanish, and Portuguese cagar, in Vegliot Dalmatian kakuor, in French chier, and in Romanian as c?care (the act of taking a dump) or a (se) c?ca. (Feces are referred to as caca in French, Catalan, Romanian (besides c?cat) and Spanish childhood slang, while Portuguese and Romanian use the very same word with the general meaning of anything that looks or smells malodorous or reminiscent of excrement.) German kacken, Dutch kakken, Czech kakat, Lithuanian kakoti, Russian (kakat'), Icelandic kúka, Bosnian kakiti etc. are all slang words meaning "to defecate", most of them having roughly the same level of severity as the English expression "take a dump".
Merda represents Indo-European *s-merd-, whose root sense was likely "something malodorous." It is cognate with German Mist (dung), Lithuanian "smirdti" ("to stink"), Russian "" (smerdét', "to stink") and Polish ?mierdzie? ("to stink").
The word merda is attested in classical texts mostly in veterinary and agricultural contexts, meaning "manure". Cato the Elder uses it, as well as stercus, while the Mulomedicina Chironis speaks of merda b?bula, "cattle manure".
In one of his verse fables (4.18.25), Phaedrus speaks of some dogs who, on hearing thunder,
The word can also be used in a metaphorical sense, as at Martial 3.17, speaking of a tart which had been blown on by a man with impure breath (caused no doubt by oral sex) to cool it down:
The politer terms for merda in Classical Latin were stercus (gen. stercoris), "manure" and fimum or fimus, "filth." Stercus was used frequently in the Vulgate, as in its well-known translation of Psalm 112:7: (Psalm 113:7 in the KJV.)
In Classical Latin, faex, plural faec?s, meant the dregs, such as are found in a bottle of wine; the word did not acquire the sense of feces until later.
Merda is productive in the Romance languages, and is the obvious etymon of French merde, Spanish mierda, and in Vegliot Dalmatian miarda. It is preserved unaltered in Catalan, Galician, Italian, Portuguese, and Sardinian. It was preserved in Romanian too, not for feces, where c?cat (derived from caco) is used instead, but in the word dezmierda, originally meaning "to clean the bottom of (an infant)"; subsequently becoming "to cuddle" or "to fondle".
P?d?, p?dere, pep?d?, p?ditum is the basic Latin word for passing intestinal wind. In the Sermones 1.8, 46, Horace writes:
Christopher Smart translates this passage as "from my cleft bum of fig-tree I let out a fart, which made as great an explosion as a burst bladder". The "I" of this satire is the god Priapus, and Smart explains that he was made of fig-tree wood which split through being poorly prepared.
Martial also uses the word several times, including the following (10.15):
A word opp?dere ("to fart in the face of, mock") is used in Horace (Sat. 1.9.70).
Catullus also uses the noun p?ditum in one of his poems (54).
A rarer word, meaning "to fart silently", was viss?re. This is hinted at in Cicero's letter ad Fam. 9.22, where he says that the word div?si? is potentially obscene, in the same way as the word intercap?d?. The word is not recorded in Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary and does not appear to have been used by any extant author. However, the Oxford Latin Dictionary quotes an inscription from a public bath in Ostia which says
Judging from derivatives in some of the daughter languages (see below), there was also a noun *viss?na "a silent fart", but no trace of this is found in the extant texts.
The noise made by escaping flatulence was usually called crepitus, a word which could refer to "a noise" of various kinds, and the verb crep?re was used of breaking wind noisily. Martial writes of a certain man, who after an embarrassing incident of flatulence when praying in the temple of Jupiter, was careful in the future to take precautions:
In Petronius (47), in the speech of the vulgar millionaire Trimalchio, euphemisms su? r? caus? facere and facere quod s? iuvet "do what helps one" are both used for relieving oneself of wind:
The antiquity of p?d? and its membership in the core inherited vocabulary is clear from its reduplicating perfect stem. It is cognate with Greek (perdomai), English fart, Bulgarian prdi, Polish pierdzie?, Russian ? (perdet'), Lithuanian persti, Sanskrit pardate, and Avestan p?raiti, all of which mean the same thing.
P?dere and p?ditum survive in Romance. In French, the noun pet from p?ditum and the derived verb péter (for earlier poire from p?dere) are very much alive. In Catalan, the verb is petar-se and the noun is pet. In Spanish the noun pedo as well as the verbs peerse and pedorrear are similarly derived. Portuguese peido and peidar(-se), (-dei) and Galician peido and peidar(se) are related. Italian peto is less common than scorreggia and its derived verb scorreggiare, but in Neapolitan pireto is frequently used.
The English word petard, found mostly in the cliché "hoist with his own petard", comes from an early explosive device, the noise of which was likened to that of farting. English also has petomania for a musical performance of breaking intestinal wind, and petomane for the performer, after Le Pétomane, a French performer active in the early 20th century.
Ming? (infinitive mingere) and mei? (infinitive meiere) are two variant forms of what is likely a single Latin verb meaning "to urinate", or in more vulgar usage, "to take a piss." The two verbs share a perfect mix? or m?nx?, and a past participle mictum or minctum. It is likely that ming? represents a variant conjugation of mei? with a nasal infix.
In Classical Latin, the form ming? was more common than mei?. In some Late Latin texts a variant first conjugation form mei?re is attested. This is the form that is productive in Romance.
The Classical Latin word mictur?re became the accepted medical word meaning "to urinate". It is the source of the English medical term "micturition reflex".
Martial's epigram 3.78 uses meiere and ?r?na to make a bilingual pun:
The verbs meiere and mingere could also be used euphemistically of sexual intercourse. Horace (Satires 1.2.44), speaking of the punishments meted out to adulterers, says:
Catullus (67.23) speaks of a father who "pissed in the lap of his own son" (ipse su? gn?t? m?nxerit in gremium), that is, had sex with his son's wife.
The most usual word for urine was ?r?na, which is attested in Latin as early as Cicero, and became the usual polite term. The relationship with the Greek verb (oure?), "to urinate", is not clear. In Classical Latin, however, the verb ?r?n?r? meant "to dive into water", and ?r?n?tor was "a diver", ?r?nant?s "those who dive".
Catullus (37) writes contemptuously of a certain Spaniard who was one of the lovers of his girlfriend Lesbia:
Another word for urine, but less commonly used, was l?tium. This word relates to lav?re, "to wash". The Romans, innocent of soap, collected urine as a source of ammonia to use in laundering clothes. The early agricultural writer Cato, an advocate of cabbage, used this word when he wrote (Res Rustica 156):
Meiere is an inherited Indo-European word. It relates to Sanskrit mehati, "urinates", Persian m?z, "urine", Lithuanian my?a, "he/she urinates", Greek (omeikhein), "to urinate", which, taken together, point to an Indo-European *h3mei?h-. This IE root with a palatal ?h was formerly mixed up (e. g. in Pokorny's IEW) with another one with velar *gh meaning "mist" (Russian mgla), hence erroneous tentative overall translations like "to sprinkle" or "to wet" which still turn up sometimes.
Though mingere and meiere are the Classical Latin forms, mei?re seems to have been the popular form in Late Latin. This underlies Galician mexar, Portuguese mijar, and Spanish mear. *Pissi?re represents a borrowing from the Germanic languages, and appears elsewhere in the Romance territory, as in French pisser, Catalan pixar, Italian pisciare and Romanian a (se) pi?a, along with English to piss.
Prostitutes were called meretr?x, "earner", and lupa, "she-wolf"; a brothel was a lup?nar; these words referred to the mercantile and perceived predatory activities of prostitutes. The Latin verb pr?st? meant "to be up for sale" and pr?stitu? meant "to expose for public sale."
The poet Juvenal (6.120-3) describes how the disgraced Empress Messalina used to enjoy playing the part of a prostitute in a brothel:
The pimp or pander in charge of the brothel, who dismissed the girls at closing time, was called l?n? if male (Juvenal 6.127) and l?na if female.
The neuter word scortum could refer to either a male or female prostitute. This word may relate to Latin scorteus, "made of leather or hide", much as English refers to the skin trade. Lewis and Short quote Varro: pellem ant?qu? d?c?bant scortum ("in the old days people referred to skin as scortum").
Another word for a male prostitute, notably one who is no longer a boy, is exol?tus (literally "grown up, adult"). Cicero (pro Milone, 21, 55) writes:
The important and productive words for a prostitute in Romance, *p?ta or *p?t?na, are not attested in Classical Latin, despite their many Romance derivatives: French putain and pute, Italian puttana, Spanish, Filipino, Catalan, Portuguese and Galician puta. French linguists state that they relate to Latin p?te?, p?t?re, "to stink," and thus represent yet another metaphor.. Spaniards María Moliner (author of a famous dictionary of Spanish) and Joan Coromines think they came from Vulgar Latin *putta, feminine form of *puttus, an emphatic form of p?tus, "pure" or "boy". In Portugal, the word puto has the same connotation as "small kid" or "little boy"; in Brazil, on the other hand, it is slang for "pissed off" or enraged males in general or as a colloquial, mildly offensive term for male escorts (more formally called prostitutos or michês) - the male counterpart of the slang puta, with the same meanings.
The HBO/BBC2 original television series Rome depicts the city with the grit and grime that is often absent from earlier productions, including that of language. But since the actors speak English, Latin profanity is mostly seen in written graffiti, such as:
Primary literary sources are discussed in the text. Many of the graffiti discussed are found in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.
It has been argued that the Germanic base of this word is ultimately < the same Indo-European base as classical Latin cunnus (see cunnilingus n.), but the -t- of forms in the Germanic languages would not be easy to explain.
latin anus ring.
latin anus ring.