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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Cunt is an English language vulgarism most commonly used in reference to vulva or vagina and, more generally, the pubis. The earliest citation of this usage, circa 1230, is in the Oxford English Dictionary, referring to the London street known as "Gropecunt Lane"; as the word "cunt" has been incorporated into the colloquial and technical speech of nautical and other occupational traditions.

Generally, cunt is considered an obscene word, and therefore greatly offensive, although, as with all verbal profanities, some speakers regard it as merely informal or even a term of endearment. Calling someone a cunt is generally considered impolite at best, and often as extremely offensive, though this varies between countries and social groupings.

Cunt is sometimes used as a nonspecific derogatory epithet in referring to either sex (in Australian English, specifically male; the Macquarie Dictionary defines cunt as "a despicable man"). Its usage as vulgar insult is, however, a relatively recent development, the earliest citation dating from 1929. Use of cunt as term of abuse for a woman is a 20th/21st century meaning. From Frederic Manning's 1929 The Middle Parts of Fortune:

What's the cunt want to come down 'ere buggering us about for, 'aven't we done enough bloody work in th' week?

This word for the female genitalia dates back to the Middle English period, c.1325. Its exact origin is unknown, but is related to the Old Norse kunta, a word with cognates in several other Germanic languages. From the Proverbs of Hendyng, a manuscript from sometime before 1325:

Ȝeue þi cunte to cunnig and craue affetir wedding.
(Give your cunt wisely and beg after the wedding.)



Although it has been said that "etymologists are unlikely to come to an agreement about the origins of 'cunt' any time soon," (Language Most Foul, Allen & Unwin (2005)) the word is most often thought to have derived from a Germanic word (Proto-Germanic *kuntō, stem *kuntōn-), which appeared as kunta in Old Norse. Scholars are uncertain of the origin of the Proto-Germanic form itself. In Middle English, it appeared with many spellings, such as coynte, cunte and queynte, which did not always reflect the actual pronunciation of the word. There are cognates in most Germanic languages, such as the Swedish, Faroese and Nynorsk kunta; West Frisian and Middle Low German kunte; Middle Dutch conte; Dutch kut; Middle Low German kutte; Middle High German kotze (prostitute); German kott, and perhaps Old English cot. The etymology of the Proto-Germanic term is disputed. It may have arisen by Grimm's law operating on the Proto-Indo-European root *gen/gon = "create, become" seen in gonads, genital, gamete, genetics, gene, or the Proto-Indo-European root *gʷneH2/guneH2 (Greek gunê) = "woman" seen in gynaecology. Relationships to similar-sounding words such as the Latin cunnus (vulva), and its derivatives French con, Spanish coño, and Portuguese cona, have not been conclusively demonstrated. Other Latin words related to cunnus are cuneatus = "wedge-shaped"; cuneo = "I fasten with a wedge", (figurative) "I wedge in", "I squeeze in", leading to English words such as cuneiform (wedge-shaped).

The word in its modern meaning is attested in Middle English. Proverbs of Hendyng, a manuscript from some time before 1325, includes the advice:

Ȝeue þi cunte to cunnig and craue affetir wedding.
(Give your cunt wisely and make (your) demands after the wedding.)

In modern literature

James Joyce is considered to be one of the first of the major 20th century novelists to put the word cunt in print. In the context of one of the central characters in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, the Wandering Jew born in Dublin, Joyce refers to the Dead Sea and to "the oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman's: the grey sunken cunt of the world." While Joyce used the word only once in Ulysses, with four other wordplays ('cunty') on it, D. H. Lawrence used the word ten times in Lady Chatterley's Lover. Both books were banned in some countries and both became famous legal test cases, though not necessarily or specifically because of vulgar usage of the word cunt. The word was later used in many modern literary texts.

In his letters, particularly in a series written to his wife Nora in 1909, when Joyce was managing a cinema in Dublin and she was in Trieste, the writer makes more liberal use of the word. In a letter written on December 2, he counterposes love and cunt in terms at once lyrical and obscene: "a love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes... it allows me to burst into tears of pity and love at some slight word...while my head is wedged in between your fat thighs, my hands clutching the round cushions of your bum and my tongue licking ravenously up your rank red cunt...All I have written above is only a moment or two of brutal madness. The last drop of seed has hardly been squirted up your cunt before it is over and my true love for you, the love of my verses, the love of my eyes for your strange luring eyes, comes blowing over my soul like a wind of spices."

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cunt" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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