The origin and meaning of sex

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

You might be surprised by the origin and meaning of sex — the etymology of the word, I mean:

sex (n.)

late 14c., “males or females collectively,” from Latin sexus “a sex, state of being either male or female, gender,” of uncertain origin. “Commonly taken with seco as division or ‘half’ of the race” [Tucker], which would connect it to secare “to divide or cut” (see section (n.)). Meaning “quality of being male or female” first recorded 1520s. Meaning “sexual intercourse” first attested 1929 (in writings of D.H. Lawrence).

Hat tip to Nick B. Steves. Incidentally, D.H. Lawrence was apparently on the radical right wing of politics.


  1. Patty O. says:

    Right. Sex means difference. Thus, homosexual (same-difference) is a meaningless contradiction, and heterosexual (different-difference) is a meaningless redundancy.

  2. Graham says:

    That link to DH Lawrence led me to the wiki article and beyond.

    Odd to see how wiki editors have framed his politics. In today’s conditions, it’s hard to imagine an elitist, education-based class-fascism like his, or as used in Jo Walton’s alt-hist series beginning with “Farthing”. But that was a major position in the time and the wikipedians seem able to get that. OTOH, they can’t understand his progressive positions either as part of that, or alternatively as part of a similarly elitist progressivism. As though a progressivism that disdains democracy is unfathomable to them.

Leave a Reply