The Intriguing History of the "C" Word


While the world has come to terms with mentioning "vagina" or "penis" in polite conversation, the "C" word remains an enigma with the power to evoke a powerful emotional response. 

Honestly, say it at a dinner party and watch the reaction! 

I would have been in my mid 20s when I first heard the "C" word and having read that it was a misogynistic term which no woman (or man) deserved to be labelled, I disliked the word for years.  But what I really disliked was the way that part of my anatomy was used in a nasty way to reduce someone to a mere body part.

And of course there's the linguistic gender imbalance - there's no male equivalent! Calling someone a "dick" doesn't evoke the same reaction. 


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Wikipedia describes cunt as a "vulgar term for female genitalia" and a "term of disparagement for women".  
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a "term of vulgar abuse" whilst Urban dictionary states it's a "synonym for a woman's genitalia" and a "derogatory term for a woman". Francis Grose's "Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" published in 1785 defined it as "a nasty name for a nasty thing".  It's sometimes used as a general expletive to show frustration, eg. "I've had a cunt of a day!"  Funnily enough the only countries to make light of the term that we could find were Australia where "he's a funny cunt" actually conveys a less negative tone and Ireland where they say it in an almost playful fashion. The Irish even have a word "Cunteen" which is a variation for a young person deemed a "Cunt". 


The Origin of the "C" word

Most scholars consider the word to have originated from a Germanic word (Proto-Germanic *kuntō, stem *kuntōn-), which appeared as kunta in Old Norse. Relationships to similar sounding words such as the Latin "cunnus" (meaning vulva) are also suggested. Even the Anglo-Saxon word "cunnan" (to know) might be the origin of cunt: "Abraham ‘knew’ his wife. Where? In her cunt."

In ancient Egypt an earlier form of the word was used as a synonym for woman and "kunta" means woman in several African languages. The word cunt is found in goddess names such as the Indian goddess Kunt and Barbara Walker traced it to the Oriental Great Goddess as "Cunti" or Kundra, the Yoni [Sanskrit for cunt] of the Universe.  Cuneiform, the most ancient form of writing, derives from “kunta” meaning “female genitalia” in Sumerian of ancient Iraq.  And the prefix "cu" has been deemed “quintessentially feminine” and pre-dates written language. Honestly you could write a whole blog post just on this alone, it's fascinating.


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The "C" word was brought to England by the Anglo-Saxons, not as an obscenity but as a factual name for female genitals. The origin of the word "vagina" dates back to 1680 and from the Latin means a sheath in which to thrust a sword. Whereas a "cunt" was celebrated as a giver of pleasure. In fact it's the only word in the English language which refers to the entire female genitalia including the clitoris so it encompasses the pleasure aspect - rather than just being something entered forcefully with an erection. 

The "C" word wasn't taboo in the middle-ages but it became taboo by the late 18th century and then didn't appear in print until the second half of the 20th century. The word first appeared around 1230 where a street in London's red light district - where it was common for streets to be named after the good available for sale - was called Gropecunt Lane. By the 17th century it was used to describe a sexually active woman and also a softer version of the word "cunny" came into use. The "C" word was first used to describe a vile person around 1860 and terms such as "cunt-sucker" a person who performs cunnilingus and "cunt struck" if exceedingly horny were used. By the early 20th century language taboos shifted from religious profanity to sexual vulgarity and it was around this time it began to be used as an insult.  It was added to Webster's Dictionary in 1961 and Oxford English Dictionary in 1972. Curiously in 1967 moustaches were sometimes called "cunt ticklers" and who didn't get "cunt faced" if you partied in the 1980s.

In a 2000 BBC study of the most offensive words, it ranked #1 ahead of motherfucker and fuck.


The "C" Word in Literature, Music & Film

Literature is sprinkled with the "C" word and everyone from Chaucer to Shakespeare, James Joyce to DH Lawrence used it.  In fact DH Lawrence included it 14 times in his risque novel Lady Chatterley's Lover which was subsequently used as evidence in his obscenity trial in 1960. 

The 1971 film Carnal Knowledge popped the "C" word's cinema cherry when Jack Nicholson said "Is this an ultimatum? Answer me, you ball-busting, castrating, son of a cunt bitch!"  And probably the most infamous use of the word - at a grand total of 35 times - was Peter Cook & Dudley Moore in their infamous Derek & Clive dialogues. 

Closer to home Rodney Rude frequently said it in his acts, even referring to his audience as "cunts" which resulted in him being arrested in QLD & WA for breaching obscenity laws. And Kevin Bloody Wilson wasn't shy about including it in his song "You Can't Say Cunt in Canada".

I can remember going to see The Vagina Monologues in Sydney. One of the monologues was entitled "Reclaiming Cunt", a piece narrated by a woman who shares that the "C" word itself is lovely despite its disturbing implications.  

In the 1970s as the punk movement grew Ian Dury screamed the "C" word, closely followed by the Sex Pistols who snuck it into a song which reached the UK Top 10. But in these songs the term wasn't being used in a derogative fashion - it was just another expletive. Then in 1979 Marianne Faithfull recorded a song about a woman confronting her unfaithful lover and screamed "every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed". Apparently workers at the Australian EMI plant where the record was pressed were so upset by the song that they staged a walkout and the track wasn't re-released in Australia until 1988.


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Recently Rihanna and Nicki Minaj have used the word in a more positive way that raises a provocative question: Are we witnessing the beginning of a new cunt-positive era in pop music?


Why does the "C" word Remain Taboo?

So from luscious origins the "C" word has evolved to become synonymous with hate and misogyny.  


"Cunt is one of the few remaining words in the English
language with a genuine power to shock." ~ Germaine Greer


Some linguists believe it's the sound that contributes to the force in which it's said. Many taboo Anglo-Saxon words have monosyllables with short vowels, eg. shit, piss, fuck, and cock which are considered more offensive than words of the same meaning, like willy, pussy or pee.

Do we lay blame with Marianne Faithful for popularising the "C" word in a negative way?  Are we all partly to blame because "fuck" - once a taboo - became acceptable and we sought another word with shock value? Do we blame feminism who fought to remove words like "bitch" and "cunt" but whose militarism may have been the very thing which reinforced the hysteria that women (and their genitals) were to be feared. 

In a 2006 segment on BBC TV's Balderdash and Piffle, Germaine Greer proposed that the condemnation of “cunt” was an inevitability in a patriarchal culture with a fear of female desire. “For hundreds of years, men identified female sexual energy as a dangerous force,” she noted. “And unlike other words for female genitals, this one sounds powerful. It demands to be taken seriously.”


Embrace your "Cuntspeak"

Now that you are armed with the knowledge of the "C" word's beautiful origins, it's time to embrace your cunt. If you're the proud owner of a cunt embrace it and if you are a lover of cunts then treat them with the respect and wonder they deserve. 

Cunts are givers of pleasure and bring life into the world. Each is as unique as a snowflake and science is still learning all of their secrets. 


A photo posted by I Spy Vagina (@i_spy_vagina) on


Personally I intend to embrace "Cuntspeak". You know when people tell you to listen to your gut? Well I've decided I'm going to listen to my cunt. Jane Caputi explained it beautifully but basically it's speaking to the source. Female oracles in ancient Greece were known as "belly talkers" and through them petitioners could hear the voice of the earth. So my take on this is being more grounded with nature, with my femaleness and with my cunt. I can visualise it using the breathing exercises I learnt in Tantra.  I'm certainly going to add it to my meditation routine from now on. 

I also intend to embrace my "cunctipotence" which is basically my cunt-magic. And no, it's not some feminist rant. Baubo, an Egyptian and Greek goddess of myrth and female power was described as being cunctipotent. She would apparently lift her dress and flash those who were depressed, thereby giving the receiver a good laugh and a good view. My interpretation is using my sexuality for good not evil or at least being more grounded and present during my sexual encounters. 

Your cunt gives you pleasure and can give pleasure as well so embrace your cunt-magic and don't let anyone take away your magical powers.

We hope you enjoyed the wonderful photos which we shared from Instagram via i_spy_vagina


  • InvisiblePants
    More than a month ago

    I love my cunt and have no problem at all with the word. I think cunts are beautiful and there is nothing wrong with calling them cunts....its just a word to describe a beautiful thing.

  • bedonkidonk
    More than a month ago

    I find it very expressive in an number of forms, Just a great word Use it widely, use it often and use it expressively

  • orangeman555
    More than a month ago

    terrific article. Language changes over time. fucking cuntingly wonderful

  • DynamicCouple
    More than a month ago

    It's a very subjective & personal thing.

    Some women will find it offensive and others will not. And one really needs to respect their opinion, whether you agree with them or not.

    We personally, find the word "cunt" offensive and as such will be turned off anyone who uses it to describe the female half of our couple.

  • Slida181
    More than a month ago

    Hummmmm I was under the impression that the word cunt also referred to the hole at the front of a ship where the anchor chain ran through..... not sure if this is actually an urban myth or a different (old) use of the word.....

    • AMM.Editor Photo
      More than a month ago

      Cuntline is certainly a nautical term which relates to the groove between the twisted strands on a piece of rope and also the splicing of rope but in the research we found when writing this article there was no reference to it. The nautical term seems to be derived from "cant" rather than "cunt" or, more accurately, the Germanic "kant" according to an Oxford University blog we found.

    • Account Closed
      More than a month ago

      yes there was an English sailor's term "cuntsplice" which refers to this. The English author Patrick O'Brian used it in his Aubrey–Maturin series which became popularly known through the movie Master and Commander

  • maddoo Photo
    More than a month ago

    the power of words and or terms are only meaningful or meaningless depends on when and how are the word used , some people can accept and some will not, i met female are turned on by certain terms regardless, for example when i was talking about "something" and as i was talking i said MY THING and that was enough to trigger a sexual thoughts that i did not meaning to at all, it just happen that the person i was talking to perceived it as if i was making reference to my thing hahahaha, however it was good conversation by the way that led MY THING to HER CUNT....! :-)

  • Blankshot Photo
    More than a month ago

    A very good article although the photos were not accessible on my laptop for some reason

    • Account Closed
      More than a month ago

      No excuses Crouching Panda.
      Like Playboy? To be read for the articles but not the pics?

  • mercboy69 Photo
    More than a month ago

    I started a new job in a car wreckers yard. This was 15 yrs agoin NZ . At the end my first day I was told by 2IC that I was now a "cunt" and I was the only employees to be a cunt on the first day. Every body else was still a useless cunt for about 2 weeks. Hahaha
    But I was being a cunny funt..

  • Gen.Guy
    More than a month ago

    Nothing wrong with the word cunt, in my view. Its when people use it to insult someone, thats the problem.

  • Pleasuremywife2 Photo
    More than a month ago

    An informative article thank you.
    On the humorous side, I met a motorcycling group in a NSW pub about 15 years ago. They were all sporting name tags with their group's identity C.U.N.T. (Canberra United National Tourers). A young lady came up to me and said "I'm a cunt' and we all burst into laughter.
    It just shows how we can use the language to it's best advantage without being offended.

  • paulze Photo
    More than a month ago

    All depends on how its used. Get close to a stranger and call him a Cockhead,
    see the reaction you get. Who knows what offends in a time that all are offended.
    The word cunt is generally offensive, not to me, but again, how it is directed.

  • allinmymind
    More than a month ago

    Loving the erotic food pictures lately.

  • Yesexx Photo
    More than a month ago

    Fantastic article thankyou. In the late nineties my circle of girlfriends used the term 'my cunt' with ownership, and we were doing so without any conscious/political reasoning, we just started to use it freely. When I think back to that period the effect it had was quite sexy, curiously liberating. By taking ownership of the word we women can dis-empower it's use as an abusive swear word and normalise it. Such is the Goddess.

  • joe2442 Photo
    More than a month ago

    I've noticed yep "Penis and Vagina" is being normalised far more for whatever the reasons. Cunt is still seen as rude, in most circles how ever I'd say it used far more now in playful chit chat between friends, but still in a joking tone, rather than everyday language most of the time between friends. How ever it's being used more and more now I'm finding, and other words that play off on that e.g. "cuntstain" if you don't like someone-the same way the word dickhead is applied to someone you don't like. But it's becoming more acceptable and will be used more over the next 10 years. Young adults now 18-21, are far more provocative in there language than those that age 10 years ago, and and young adults 18-21 from mid-90's e.g. 1995 are unrecognisable in there language compared to 20 odd years on e.g. 2015-16. Things 20 years ago, word like cunt would be seen as height of rudeness no one would even think of saying it. Cunt will get used more, and no one will notice, the same way no one notices when someone says "bullshit/or fuck that/or fuck off", those swear word phrases/words have been normalised, "cunt" is on it's way to being normalized next 5-10 years. You only have to watch porn today and it's language is so much more graphic it makes the 1970's-80's-90's porn look so lame in it's language expression.

  • chesswiseagain Photo
    More than a month ago

    What a great article... I love the use of the word cunt in sexual talk. I never use it in swearing. I love a woman saying " please play with my cunt and then fuck it". A real turn on for me! A great Anglo-Saxon word, far more a turn on than " pussy"...

  • wonderment66
    More than a month ago

    And kundalini is another word with the same origin.

  • Hedonistz Photo
    More than a month ago

    There is no such thing as bad language, only language. Its a form of communication it's not what you say it's how you say it.
    "Funny cunts!" :) and everyone's got a mate who's a "mad cunt!"

    • maddoo Photo
      More than a month ago

      well if this is the case then allow me to express to you that what i saw in your profile pictures are so sex CUNTS, and i mean it,
      specially the pic where you leaning against the tree
      also the on on the 8 ball table....! what a lovely looking cunt....! :-)

  • mee1968 Photo
    More than a month ago

    um its only a man made up word !!!!!!
    yet everybody is entitled to their view of it !!!!!!!
    what ever you call it , be it a cunt, vagina, pussy, fanny etc etc is a stunningly delicious and amazing part of the fantastic female anatomy ,,,,,,,,
    i still say there is no better word to use when you smash your thumb with a hammer or bash your shin on a tow bar tongue or deal with a nasty , thieving or lying piece of trash etc !!!!!!!
    my late mum hated the word as have a few of my ex girlfriends also,,,,,,,, yet strangely those same ex's loved it being used when talking filthy to them during sex,,,,,,,, calling someone a cunt is not inferring they are a vagina,,,,, its a multi faceted word ,,,,,,, but having said that we need to keep some boundaries so maybe leave it as a filthy word that is best used tactfully !!!!!!!!!!! :o)

  • KaifraDuet Photo
    More than a month ago

    Funny isn't it. Roses are one of the most popular - if not the most - flowers, and no other looks a much like a cunt.

    A bit of trivia (my mind's full of it - frightening really): Rabbits were once the young of the coney (which like donkey had the same pronunciation as money - donkey itself replaced ass in the same way as rooster replaced cock in an era when turned or bowed table legs were hidden by long tablecloths or pantaloons). However, when the term of endearment "cunny" became popular and widespread, rabbit was deemed the "polite" name for the animal.

    Nothing daunted, London prostitutes began sprucing their wears with a mispronounced cry: "No coany, no moany".

    Not only did ass become donkey and cock become rooster, but breast and thigh meat became "light and dark". The folklorist John Lomax recalled interviewing an old lady whose grandson was a "Roosterswain in the navy". There are literally dozens of examples of polite words substituted for the "vulgar tongue" which really had its beginnings when the Normans (themselves originally from Norway but become more French and the French they conquered) deemed the Germanic and Celt dialects spoken in England to be "vulgar". If anyone would like a discussion on this fascinating subject, feel free to message me.

  • Austphil
    More than a month ago

    Calling some one a dick is not taken as seriously , but said with enough venom PRICK, is often used as a insult.

  • allinmymind
    More than a month ago

    I thought Kunta was the main character in Roots. And no I am not being funny it is a tv show lol. Kunta Kinte. And he was African, seems legit.

    • annandalesparky
      More than a month ago

      I remember the show, the main character was searching for his ancestor, Kunta Kinte on the river Gambia.

  • hijoinmenow
    More than a month ago

    I have heard many women & just as many men for that matter use the term cunt, what's wrong with it anyway, I don't use it much myself but that doesn't mean I don't love a nice clean cunt, I love them, a nice clean smelling one taste's good as your article

  • DeliciousEva Photo
    More than a month ago

    It's one of my most favourite words ever.
    Such a rich and wonderful history. Such feminine power denigrated over the years by fear of women and their sexuality.
    I say embrace it! Bring it back to its beauty and glory.
    Cunt power for all!!

    • Leolady727 Photo
      More than a month ago

      Well said, Eva - the other word I would like to see normalised is "slut". If you've read The Ethical Slut (I'm sure you have) you'd know what I mean.

  • Melody2973
    More than a month ago

    Not a fan of the term, I don't use it nor do I want someone to refer to mine as such :))

  • Uniqueguyhere Photo
    More than a month ago

    Great article. At the end of the day it's just a word. If anyone is offended by it you just don't say it in front of them. I know women that use the word more than men. From my experience most women are offended by the word in public but when it comes to saying it in the bedroom.........................

    • allinmymind
      More than a month ago

      If you use it to describe their body part once is probably too many times.

  • Leolady727 Photo
    More than a month ago

    I would LOVE to see the term "cunt" normalised and accepted. It's a good word with, as this article shows, a long history. I have no qualms about referring to my cunt - it's the centre of pleasure, after all!

    • AMM.Editor Photo
      More than a month ago

      Thank you for such positive lovely feedback. I found this article fascinating to research and I hope it changes some perceptions.

    • KonkeyDong69
      More than a month ago

      well said Ms Leolady

    • motorcade
      More than a month ago

      I agree. I've always disliked the words vagina and penis; they are so twee - and when I learned years ago that vagina meant sheath for a sword I stopped using it.
      Far prefer cunt and cock. Thanks for the etymology of cunt amm!

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