MooT Question Icon
According to the BBC, when was the word sex first used to mean "sexual intercourse" — as in "have sex with someone": 1929 or 1729?

Etymology, Etymology, and more Etymology
as well as grammar, usage, euphemism, slang, jargon, semantics, linguistics, neologism, idiom, cant, and argot.

A picture of a moot game

The critically-acclaimed board game MooT
consists of tough questions about the nuances of the English language.
To join our mailing list and get
free brain-twisting MooT questions sent to you irregularly,
enter your email address and then press submit.

E-Mail address:

Back to home page

Answer: 1929

In the article 101 years in 101 words (as reported by the BBC):

"A study of when new words became common during the past century has had some surprising findings, such as the word celebs being used in 1913, the word sex meaning "sexual intercourse" being first used in 1929, and mobile phone dating from 1945."

Some others: Egghead (1907), Punk — in the sense Punk rock — (1971 in a Dave Marsh article in Creem Magazine),beatnik (1958), dumb down (1933), and MooT — in the sense "really tricky board game" — (1987).

For further info, see:


jacko^@& ...which really makes one wonder what they used to call it before 1929. "Making Whoopee" certainly predates it (Gus Kahn, 1928); but what did they use to say when they wanted to sound neutral, without being as clinical as Krafft-Ebing (i.e. "sexual intercourse")?

[Mootguy: The OED's first citation for the word copulation (in sense "join sexually") is from 1483: "Made one flesshe by carnal copulacyon or bodily felawshyp" [Caxton].]

I believe that the term 'punk' as in "young punk" was quite common in American rebellious youth movies of the 1950's. I have heard the reference of 'punk' that goes much further back, say a couple of generations...such as, if something doesn't 'measure up to a standard it is punk', i.e. a fruit that doesn't taste right is considered punk or punky...

[Mootguy: Note that the first citation date for "punk" — which I took directly from the article — was incorrect. Thanks to all those who pointed this out.]
heyolman at &

Very interesting. "Punk" as applied to punk rock and its practitioners may have come in in 1974, as the OED confirms (it gives 1971 for "punk rock"); but surely the practitioners merely adopted as a self-description a word that (again according to the OED) had existed in the sense of "a no-good" since about 1930. So I'd give 1930 as the date for that word, still of interest as I might have guessed earlier.
dassori at &

The word "punk", used in several ways including "a young, tough, obnoxious ruffian", was very common around the Boston, MA area when I was growing up there in the 1960s. It certainly predates 1974, as the Who use it in the title of one of their songs on the 1973 album Quadrophenia.
cchimi at &

I believe "punk" has been used in the U.S. since the 1950s. Just a guess, but I remember that word being used when I was young---the 1960s.
gpard at &

In the USA "moot", in legal terms, means "no longer applicable".

In Oz it seems to be "obscure" or "not pertaining to the matter discussed".
fierenze at

Punk? 1974? I doubt that, except in referring to those Hippie successors. Punk was used to dismiss young, petty thugs in at least the 1950s. Also, in that era, the slow-burning sticks we used to light firecrackers were called punks.
jffriesen at

Copyright 1998-2009 Blair Arts Ltd. All rights reserved.