Fuck 101

(or: killing myths about the history behind a naughty word describing our all-time favourite pastime)

The word's fucking meaning today.

Fuck means many things. Primarily it is describing the act of copulation, or sex, if you like. However, it has gained a multitude of other uses over the years, all of which are considered rude and indecent by the majority of those people who believe using swearwords is indecent.

A famous comedian whose name I cannot recall has written a show about the uses of the word fuck (George Carlin and Monty Python have been suggested, but nobody seems to know who did the thing.. strange.). To not break his copyright (although an extract is available here on E2), I have paraphrased some of them here:

The word Fuck can be used as:

*) This is probably a well known usage of the word fuck, but does usually not imply a desire for sexual intercourse with the person this is said to.

**) See the section on early roots

As explained in the earlier mentioned node, Fuck can be used to express dissatisfaction, dismissal, difficulty and trouble, among other things.

Where the fuck did this fucking word come from?

Eloquently stated question.

The etymology (roots of a word) of the word fuck are unknown. There are, however, several myths and truths to be found. The word (fuk) has alledgedly been around since around 1400. The earliest occurrence of the current spelling was recorded in 1535.

Early roots:

As noted above, the transitive verb of the word fuck is usually used about something a male does to a female, or another male. This could lead us to believe that some time in the past, the word "fuck" had a meaning of something that a male does to a female during intercourse.

Indeed, the root of the word "fuck" is believed to be the word "fokken", which is to beat something against something else, to thrust, to poke, or to push. All of which is relevant in the mentioned current meaning of the word fuck.

At the same time, it might be worth noting that "fokken" is a word that is currently in use in Dutch, meaning to raise pigs and other livestock. Therefore, in Dutch, "varkens fokken" is not fucking pigs, but rather raising pigs for sale on the market. However, the word "fokken" also implies the overseing of the act of the livestock's mating - again related to the current use of the word fuck.

It might not be of importance (I have not found this in any sources) but the old Dutch word for Jib (the front sail of a sailing boat) is called a "fok". Considering that this sail (on large boats) is often fixed on a protruding boom, and also considering that the golden age of sailing boats happened around the same time as the word fuck was first recorded, it might be a possible explanation. (as I mentioned, I cannot back this tidbit up - it is purely speculation)

Early meanings:

From multiple sources (among others the translated writings of De Sade, the french writer from whose name "sadism" is derived), it is believed that the word fuck once meant sperm / semen


As someone who speaks Norwegian fluently (and as confirmed by Nordicfrost), the word "fukka" is completely nonexistant in the Norwegian. I have not been able to trace it to any dialect, and it does not exist even in the largest dictionaries. There are no words that are closely related meaning the same thing, and according to a professor at UIO (Oslo University), Icelandic - the only true norse language still remaining - has no similar words either.

In most sources "dialectical Norwegian" is cited as the source for the word "fukka". Considering the language situation in Norway (see this WU), this could mean pretty much anything. It is, however, fair to assume that for the word to spread to the germanic languages, it would have to come from the areas around Bergen. This is because the time area in question is part of the Hansa trade period, involving shipping and trade, primarily witn Germany. In this area, however, the word (or similarities) have not been found.

The common "knowledge" of the word fuck being an acronym are most likely to be false, for a variety of reasons. The most prominent reason for this being false, is that the existance of the word would be dependant of the word replacing something naughty. "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" (Carnal = "of the flesh") and "Fornication Under Consent of the King" (Fornication = sex). Neither of these two would be in need of a more innocent acronym, even in Victorian times.

Is this word overused in the language?

Most definitely. It is about time that people found a new word usable to shock and disturb moralists.

Why does it insult people?

Hard to tell. Some believe that the reason people are offended by the word is the trivialisation of sex. The word "fuck" has no emotional connotations whatsoever. At least not when it is used about copulation (it might have strong emotional connotations when used as a curse; "FUCK YOU", but that is, as mentioned, non-sexual).