prostitute - euphemism

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by tFighterPilot, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    In the Israeli media, when there's an article involving a prostitute, she's usually called נערת ליווי na'arát livúy (escort girl) instead of the proper name זונה zoná.

    Is there a similar thing in your country\language?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2012
  2. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In the Greek Media, the euphemism of a prostitute is «ιερόδουλη» /ie'roðuli/ (fem. nom. sing.) and «ιερόδουλες» /ie'roðules/ in plural.
    The noun is an ancient one, «ἱερόδουλη» hĭĕ'rŏdoulē (fem.) and described a temple female slave in the service of a specific deity, often with the connotation of religious sexual rites (e.g the female templecourtesans at Corinth). Compound, adj. «ἱερός, -ὰ, -όν» hĭĕ'rŏs, hĭĕ'ră, hĭĕ'rŏn (masc. fem. neut.) --> sacred (with obscure etymology) + noun «δοῦλος, -λη, -ον» 'doulŏs, 'doulē, 'doulŏn (masc. fem. neut.) --> slave (of unknown etymology)
  3. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    “Prostitute” is actually a euphemism itself. The genuine English word is “harlot” or “whore”.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2012
  4. ancalimon Senior Member


    orospu : whore

    sanitized version is hayat kadını: (life woman).. I guess we call them this because maybe we think that they do this because life wasn't kind to them.
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    путана (putana)
    гетера (hetaera)
    ночная бабочка (night butterfly)
    публичная женщина (lit. public woman)
    женщина легкого поведения (woman of easy virtue)
  6. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    In AE I hear "street walker", "escort girl"; the "official" term is "sex worker".
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2012
  7. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    What about slut ?
  8. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    It's amazing that you use the name hetaera for the prostitute, we don't, it's an archaism for us.
    The use of «πουτάνα»:warn: /pu'tana/ (fem.) is considered a profanity.
    The genuine Greek word for the prostitute is «πόρνη» /'porni/ (fem.) which is an ancient word, «πόρνη» 'pŏrnē (fem.), from the verb «πέρνημι» 'pĕ'rnēmĭ --> to sell (PIE root *per-, to traffic in, to sell).
    Another (rarely used) euphemism is «παλ(λ)ακίδα» /pala'ciða/ (fem.), a Classical feminine noun «παλλακίς» păllā'kīs --> concubine, a woman who offers herself in ritual prostitution (with obscure etymology, cognate with the Latin pælex --> mistress)
  9. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Maroseika may disagree with me, but I have absolutely no association between a random contamporary prostitute (and much less a PC term for a prostitute) and hetaera (or the Russian term for it). To me heatera is very specific to high society in ancient Greece.
  10. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Two euphemisms are used Arabic:
    فتيات الليل fatayaat al-layl "girls of the night"
    بائعات الهوى baa'i3aat al-hawaa "Sellers (f) of desire" (or something of the sort)
  11. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Dutch: "meisjes van plezier", girls of pleasure, might be one...
  12. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    German (slightly derogatory) "Damen vom Gewerbe"
  13. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    This is a rather stiff expression used by people who are afraid of saying "Prostituierte" which is the common word in the media.

    My favourite is "Bordsteinschwalbe" (kerb swallow) though.

    Now I know where "porn" comes from. :D
  14. shawnee

    shawnee Senior Member

    English - Australian
    Thanks for that apmoy, Owing to thefact that in my laziness I keep up with Greek media in the Enlish version, I'd not come across this before. I can't however, imagine using it without a touch of irony; I mean holy- worker/slave? Is there not some tongue-in-cheek in the media use of this term?
  15. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi shawnee,

    Actually that's the accepted euphemism for the prostitute.
    In fact the girls name themselves «ιερόδουλη/ιερόδουλες» (Prostitution here is legal and regulated. The girls of the said profession, are monitored regularly by health inspectors for STDs and keep a health personal record where they are officially called "holy slaves").
    You could use «εκδιδόμενη γυναίκα/εκδιδόμενες γυναίκες» /ekði'ðomeni ʝi'neka/ (fem. nom. sing.) /ekði'ðomenes ʝi'neces/ (fem. nom. pl.) instead, lit. disseminated woman.
    But it's considered bookish nowadays and if you use the term (with the reduplication of the verb) you'll be considered highbrowed.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2012
  16. shawnee

    shawnee Senior Member

    English - Australian
    Fantastic answer as we have come to expect from you apmoy. Ευχαριστώ.
    I should add that our media refers to such women as 'sex workers', which really isnt a euphemism at all.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2012
  17. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Dutch: "dames van lichte zeden" (ladies lacking good morals, of light 'moral quality') - or of the light cavalry (but that is something I have just found somewhere, I did not know that).
  18. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello Hamlet2508,
    Slut is frequently used as an insult ; it's harsh rather than a being euphemism for prostitute. Shouldn't a euphemism be mild or less direct?
  19. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    ^You are absolutely right of course. Don't know what got into my head to post that word.
  20. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    Quite common in parts of Austria though.
  21. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Call girl
    Woman of the night
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Dutch, another one: straatmadeliefje, street daisy...
  23. Maroseika Moderator

    I don't mean of course it's used in the colloquial speech, but as a newspaper eiphemism it is encountered.
  24. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    And another one in Greek which is now considered obsolete (it was the norm to name prostitutes like that in late 19th/early 20th c.):
    «Γυνὴ/γυναῖκαι ἐλευθερίων ἠθῶν»
    /ʝi'ni elefθe'rion i'θon/ (fem. nom. sing.) /ʝi'nece elefθe'rion i'θon/ (fem. nom. pl.) lit. "woman/women of free morals"
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  25. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Speaking of obsolete terms,
    On the Atlantic coast of New Jersey there is a small Victorian resort town of Cape May. Like any resort town of that time it had a "red light" district, and apparently girls who worked it, were called saucy women. :)

    The reason I'm giving this detail is that I'm not sure if that was a regionalism or an overall AE term of the time (e.g. would the same term have been used, say, in San Francisco?).
  26. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    In French, there are a lot of synonyms/euphemisms for prostitute:
    - femme de petite vertue (lit.:woman of light virtue)
    - femme de mauvaise vie (lit. woman of bad life)
    - femme publique (lit. public woman)
    - old: péripatéticienne, courtisane, ribaude
    - poetic : marchande d'amour (tradeswoman of love)
    - crude: putain, pute, marie-couche-toi-là, trainée, poule, câtin, ...
  27. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Actually, the usual word for "prostitute" in French is "fille". You can tell from the context whether it means "daughter" or "prostitute". If you want to say "girl" you should say "jeune fille", which bad translators render as "young girl".
  28. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    It's really-really interesting that you used the Greek word for the prostitute who solicits by street-walking (péripatéticienne) instead of the Latin circulatrix (which described the same concept).

    A few more in Ancient Greek:

    A) «Κασσαλβάς» kăssāl'bās (fem.) and «κάσσα» 'kāssă (fem.) from the masculine nouns «κασ(σ)ᾶς» kā's(s)ās and «κάσσος» 'kāssŏs --> a carpet or skin, felt, used particularly as a covering for a horse, a saddle to sit upon with obscure etymology (probably a Semitic or Persian loan). The Latin "scortum" which was the common name of whore for the Romans, is probably a calque of the Greek name(s) (and derives from the neut. noun "scortum" --> the skin of an animal, metaph. the female pudenda).
    B) «Χαμαιτύπη» xămæ'tūpē (fem.) a compound word: Adv. «χαμαὶ» xā'mæ --> on the earth, on the ground + verb «τύπτω» 'tūptō --> beat, strike, smite; according to Suidas Lexicon, «χαμαιτύπη» derives «ἀπὸ τοῦ χαμαὶ κειμένην ὀχεύεσθαι» (she copulates while lying on the ground).
  29. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Going back to ancient languages, Classical Arabic had also 2 euphemisms:
    -ذوات الأعلام dhawaat al-a3laam: Those of the flags. Since brothels actually had flags over them.
    -قحبة qa7ba, literally "cougher (f). Since prostitutes would signal men passing-by by coughing or "ahem"ing.
    The latter has become really offensive in modern Arabic, since the older meaning of the root is no longer used. Even the non-euphemistic terms in Classical Arabic have now become more neutral!
  30. leticiapuravida

    leticiapuravida Senior Member

    English (US) - Spanish (CR)
    In American English there is a whole range of euphemisms -- in addition to those above, you may hear "escort" (without "girl" - i don't know if I've ever heard that variant), "call girl", "lady of the night", "working girl", plus some others more insulting. Different ones are more appropriate in different contexts.

    The term "sex worker" is currently the most "politically correct", and also the most academic -- often used by those who are striving for neutrality in their use of the term, in the face of arguments on one side that prostitution is exploitative and demeaning, and, on the other side, that prostitution is a legitimate and potentially even empowering choice for generating income that should not be overlaid with terms that imply any moral judgement. In that contect, "sex worker" (possibly also by virtue of being a comparatively new term) seems the least "loaded' of the terms, the closest to being merely descriptive. Moreover, it is not gendered, unlike some of the other terms mentioned, which specifically refer to women.

    Having said all that, and going back to the context of tFighterPilot's original question. it is not the dominant term in the media. In the US, in a newspaper story, you're more likely to hear "prostitute", "escort", or "call girl". And "prostitute" tends to refer to sex workers who pick up clients on street corners, whereas "escort" and "call girl" almost always refer to sex workers whose services are arranged in advance.

    "Lady of the night" and "working girl" are much more "polite" terms, the kind of thing your grandmother, or someone trying to be especially delicate, might say.
  31. Maroseika Moderator

    I wonder what would think of it disciples of Aristotle...
  32. Villeggiatura Senior Member

    Greek: πτωχελένη (πτωχή - Ἑλένη, beggarly Helen)

    I've heard there was a term comtesse hygiénique used in aristocratic circles, could anyone please elaborate on that?
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  33. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    [...] (reply to deleted post) The Greek ones are really euphemistic. I cannot think of euphemisms in Dutch...
  34. Panceltic Senior Member


    prijateljica noči (a friend of the night)
    pocestnica (one who is on the street)
    lahko dekle (an easy girl)

    I personally quite like the expressions hotnica and vlačuga :D They are a bit archaic, not used nowadays.

    Their profession is sometimes called najstarejša obrt (the oldest trade).
  35. Radioh

    Radioh Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Call girl(gái gọi), chick(gà), or girl(gái) in some contexts.
  36. 810senior

    810senior Senior Member

    I'm afraid I haven't ever seen and heard of an Euphemism for it in Japanese.

    Prostitute: 売春婦bai-shun-fu(sell-spring-lady) a lady who selling her spring (spring is a metaphor of having sex)
    (in a figurative way) 花売りhanauri(flower seller or the act of selling flowers), a flower here refers to female genitals figuratively and seldom is it used in formal speech but only in fictions.
  37. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Oh my Gosh! :D I was about to boast about a nice Hungarian expression we have and you have the same.
    I wonder other Slavic languages know it, too. I doubt we copied it from Russian.

    éjjeli pillangó [night butterfly] and I think it sounds as poetic as in Russian
    repedtsarkú [the one with chapped heels]
    there are moe but not so interesting.
  38. Penyafort

    Penyafort Senior Member

    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    In Catalan, probably following the trend in other languages, I have also read and heard the euphemism sex worker on the media, rendered as:

    treballadora del sexe
    treballadora sexual
    professional del sexe

    Escort sounds like that 'professional-looking' new term for what might also be referred to as acompanyant (companion), understandable since it looks like escorta, the word used for protection escorts. Literary words to refer to high-standard ones from ancient times are cortesana 'courtesan' and, related to the Greek world, hetera 'hetaira'.

    The traditional euphemisms, most of them common to those in other languages, are (or were):

    dona pública = public woman
    dona de la vida = life woman
    dona de món (or dona mundana) = world woman
    dona errada = misguided woman
    dona de cadira = chair woman
    pecadora = sinful woman
    The word puça 'flea' was a euphemism in the sense that it was simply a deviation from the common puta, the pan-Romance vulgar one from *putta.

    Some words referring to harlots in Catalan, many of them somewhat literary or old-fashioned these days, are:

    bagassa, ancient form, likely from a pre-Roman root
    bandarra, probably derived from mandra 'laziness'
    bardaixa, from a Middle Persian word for slave, via Arabic or Turkish
    barjaula, likely an occitanism (Provençal barjar 'chatter')
    barram, from a semantic evolution of the other meaning of the word, 'jaws', of pre-Roman origin
    bordellera, from bordell 'brothel'
    cantonera, from cantó 'corner'
    carrerista, from carrer 'street'
    marcolfa, from the Germanic name of the wife of Bertoldo, character in a popular Italian tale from the 17th century
    meretriu, from Latin meretrice(m)
    meuca, from one of the names for the owl, a night bird, coming from the sounds of it being similar to the meus 'miaows' of a cat
    pendó, probably from the Spanish pendón
    pepa, from the short form used for the common female name Josepa
    qualsevol, literally 'anyone', similar in use to the Spanish una cualquiera, from Latin quale se *volet

    Of these above, meuca and bagassa are probably the ones more used on media after the standard prostituta. Most would consider bandarra and pendó to be colloquial terms.

    is considered vulgar, just like in the other Romance languages. To give several emphatic nuances to the word, Catalan uses suffixes similarly to what other Romance languages do: putot, putarrot, puteta, putassa, putanga, putona, putarringa, etc. Funnily, the term is not considered so vulgar when used with masculine modifiers, meaning then 'clever, sharp'.

    Several other local ones exist. And as usual, in common informal speech, non-Catalan slang words taken from Spanish are often heard too.

  39. Nawaq Senior Member

    français (France)
    Maybe I am the only one to say that but in a "funny" way, when I used to see girls dressed in nothing (at school or elsewhere), with my mother I called them "prostipatétiputes", for a mix of "prostituée", "péripatéticienne", and "pute"... also fille de joie, tapineuse (from "tapin").
  40. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    No one has mentioned "vice girl" so far. I wouldn't use the term myself, but the BrE press seems to be fond of it.
  41. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    Jeez, you use "working girls" for them! What about "working women"?
  42. Karton Realista

    Karton Realista Senior Member

    Polish - Poland
    Kobieta lekkich obyczajów - woman of light customs
    Ulicznica - street woman, little archaic and not really an euphemism.
    Kobieta lekko prowadząca się - woman leading herself (her lifestyle etc.) lightly
    Burdello is sometimes called in Polish as dom publiczny (public house).
    Dama do towarzystwa - lady to keep company.
    Córa Koryntu - the daughter of Corint.
    Franca, lampucera, murwa.
  43. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Let's wait what Czech natives will say/think but I found in the latest Czech dictionary noční motýl [night butterfly], too, but not in the older ones. Maybe a neologism. :confused:
  44. 810senior

    810senior Senior Member

    I recall 闇に咲く花yami-ni saku hana(lit. a flower that blooms in darkness) referred to as a metaphor of prostitutes in a gloomy back street.
  45. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Ancient Corinth was very famous for its prostitutes.

    “The temple of Aphrodite was so rich that it employed more than a thousand hetairas,[16] whom both men and women had given to the goddess. Many people visited the town on account of them, and thus these hetairas contributed to the riches of the town: for the ship captains frivolously spent their money there, hence the saying: ‘The voyage to Corinth is not for every man’.

    From the Wikipedia article, "Prostitution in Ancient Greece".
  46. Pugnator Senior Member

    Neapoilitan (Naples) / Italian (Italy)
    On Italian exist "puttana" and on Neapolitan "puttana/pottana" .
  47. twinklestar

    twinklestar Senior Member

    • 鸡 chick for female one ;鸭 duck for male;
    • 站街:standing on the street used as a noun
    • 三陪:three escorts- drinking, playing, sleeping, etc.
    • 按摩女:massaging woman
    • 卖春女: Spring-selling woman
    • 外围女:Peripheral female
    • 援交:escort (It is a loan word from Taiwan, and I think it is origianally from Japan or Korea. )
    • 交际花: socialising flower
    • 青楼女子:green-building woman
    • 神女:goddess woman
    • 风尘女子:wind and dust woman
    • 小姐:miss
    • 烟花女:firework woman
    There are more than 100 terms for prostitute in Chinese and its dialects.

    PS. As I know there is a Japanese term -慰安妇 comfort woman.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  48. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Very...colourful. :) How can "green-building woman" be explained, twinklestar?
  49. twinklestar

    twinklestar Senior Member

    Green building refers to brothel in euphemism in some ancient Chinese poems, thus the women who lived inside were prostitutes.

    I don't know why "green building" allures to brothel.
  50. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    So I guess ordinary buildings in China would not be painted green then? It might be embarrassing to have to live in one.

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