Sexual Etymology: Ejaculate and Cum

by Jason Stotts

There are many words in our language to describe orgasm, but two of the more etymologically interesting are “ejaculate” and “cum.”

Ejaculate – 1578, “emit semen,” from L. ejaculatus, pp. of ejaculari, from ex- “out” + jaculari “to throw, dart,” from jaculum “javelin,” from jacere “to throw.” Only other surviving sense is “exclaim suddenly” (1666). (ejaculate)

Interestingly, until rather recently the more common use of “ejaculate” was the second form of “exclaim suddenly.” It is not until recently that the rather obscure medical term ejaculate came into common parlance. Before that, it was common to see characters ejaculate “What?” or “So!” and people never associated this with orgasm.

The word “cum” also has an interesting history.

Cum – (v. and n.) seems to be a modern (by 1973) variant of the sexual sense of come that originated in pornographic writing, perhaps first in the noun sense. This “experience sexual orgasm” slang meaning of come (perhaps originally come off) is attested from 1650, in “Walking In A Meadowe Greene,” in a folio of “loose songs” collected by Bishop Percy.

They lay soe close together, they made me much to wonder;
I knew not which was wether, until I saw her under.
Then off he came, and blusht for shame soe soon that he had endit;
Yet still she lies, and to him cryes, “one more and none can mend it.”

As a noun meaning “semen or other product of orgasm” it is on record from the 1920s. The sexual cum seems to have no connection with L. cum,the preposition meaning “with, together with,” which is occasionally used in English in local names of combined parishes or benifices (e.g.Chorlton-cum-Hardy), in popular Latin phrases (e.g. cum laude), or as a combining word to indicate a dual nature or function (e.g. slumber party-cum-bloodbath). (cum)

I’ve always found the word “cum” to be rather strange. It’s not as if I go somewhere before orgasm and then suddenly come back. It makes somewhat more sense to me as “it [my semen, orgasm] is coming,” but that is not the general usage.

One of my favorite ways of talking about orgasm is the French “la petite mort” or “the little death.” I think that, in general, the French have one of the best sexual vocabularies in terms of both descriptive power and accuracy.

2 Responses to “Sexual Etymology: Ejaculate and Cum”


  1. Maryon Jeane

    I was always led to believe that the term ‘come’, later changed to ‘cum’ was adopted from the dairy term when the milk would ‘come’ or ‘come in’, which is the moment when, being churned, it starts to turn into butter. This does logically seem to be a naturally-occurring adoption, particularly given the similarities between milk and sexual fluids.

  2. JasonStotts

    I hadn’t heard that etymological story before, but it makes a lot of sense. With the particular sexual slang we use, it’s certainly possible that they have different, but convergent, origins. Thanks for sharing that!