A Brief History Of The ‘Cunt’

A Brief History of the Cunt. By Mina Moriarty CLICK HERE

From Hindu Goddesses and Pagan rituals to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the c-word has had an ancient and powerful history that spans centuries and cultures.

Why, then, is “cunt” still considered one of the most offensive words in the Western Hemisphere?

According to author and historian M. Geller, its first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1972 saw the word having been first sighted in London in 1230 as the street name “Gropecunte Lane,” a supposed Red Light District. Lexicographers also argue a connection to the Romance languages, with the word “vagina” rooted in the Latin cunnus, meaning “sword sheath.”

While “vagina” is used much more commonly in colloquial speech to refer to the genitals of people with vulvas than “cunt” is, its origins

are defined by its service to male sexuality, making “cunt” — interestingly enough — the least historically misogynistic of the two. “Cunt” has also been used in Renaissance bawdy verse and in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but it was not until Shakespeare’s era that its meaning began to fundamentally shift, during the dawn of Christian doctrine.

The precise etymology of the word “cunt” is a matter of debate and an admittedly — sometimes egregiously — convoluted subject that, aside from a couple of features here and there

(such as the Independent’s interview with Germaine Greer—whose long-noted transphobia makes such an interview dubious at best—from 2006)

has attracted little investigation in contemporary mainstream media and pop culture.

For some, “cunt” epitomizes a disconcerting global attitude toward the sexualities of female and non-binary people and their accompanying position within our patriarchal system. Author Kate Millett in her book Sexual Politics summarizes the still-potent degradation and shame of “being a Cunt”:

“Somehow every indignity the female suffers ultimately comes to be symbolized in a sexuality that is held to be her responsibility, her shame. It can be summarized in one four-letter word. And the word is not fuck, it’s cunt. Our self-contempt originates in this: in knowing we are cunt.”

The Hindu Goddess Kunti, or great “Yoni of the Universe,” represented the beauty and power of the female body in Mahābhārata, a major Sanskrit epic of ancient India. (And soon to be movie.) The Mahabharata was a historical Hindu text, believed to have been written between 200 and 400 BC, containing mythological and didactic tales of heroism and the sovereign rivalry between two families. Not only did Yoni lead a powerful matriarchy that rivals the discourse of contemporary gender politics, but she encompassed life itself; she was worshiped at hundreds of shrines across the ancient Eastern world.

2. Christianity And The Demonization Of Female Sexuality In the Middle Ages, Christian clergymen preached the idea of a woman’s genitals as a potent source of evil, referring to the “Cunnus Diaboli,” meaning “Devilish Cunt.”

Shrines across South Asia depicting any reference to the Goddess Kunti were also destroyed; they were deemed grotesque and blasphemous.

3. Culturally Diverse Origins

3a. Originating in India through the Goddess Kunti, the word has since evolved from the Old Norse “kunta,” referring to vulvas, with many variations existing in other Germanic and Scandinavian languages, including the Danish “kunte” and the modern use of “kont” in Dutch, meaning “buttocks.”

3b. In Anglo Saxon, “Cu” is one of the oldest word sounds in recorded language, a feminine meaning that has evolved into words such as “cow,” “cunt,” and “queen,” though the earliest “cunt”