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Cūlus is Latin for anus. It is the basic Latin word for the anus was. The word was not considered quite as offensive as mentula or cunnus, but does appear in Roman ribaldry. The word is relatively common, and is productive in Romance.



Cūlus may be an o-grade of Indo-European kel-, which describes a covering; compare Latin celare, "to conceal." This etymology is problematic, though, and James N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (Johns Hopkins, 1990) says that its origin is obscure.

From Proto-Indo-European *kuH-l-, zero-grade without s-mobile form of *(s)kewH- (“to cover”). Cognates include Old Irish cúl (“bottom”), Lithuanian kẽvalas (“skin, cover”) and indirectly Old English hȳd (English hide). Related to obscūrus (“dark, obscure”) and cutis (“hide”).


Cūlus was applied to the anus of both man and beast; the cūlus of a horse is described in Cato the Elder's De Agri Cultura. Martial 11.21 speaks of a cūlus aēnī, "the bronze asshole", as on a statue.

Synonyms and metaphors

The more seemly Latin word for the buttocks was clūnēs (singular clūnis); this word was generally more decent than cūlus, and older, as well: it has several Indo-European cognates. Ānus 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 annulus became the usual Latin name for a ring or circle.

A curious example of the usage of "ring" as a metaphor being kept (or most likely, having resurfaced) in a modern Romance language can be found in Brazilian Portuguese slang, as 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".

In the Romance languages

Cūlus has been preserved, meaning the buttocks rather than the anus, in most of the 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 čol, in Sardinian culu and in Portuguese 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.

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

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