14 Old Ways To Describe Orgasms

We aren't very poetic about orgasms, as a culture. The Big O, coming, climaxing — and that's basically it, if you're not a medical professional. Fortunately, centuries past have done the work for us — and while most of the euphemisms for orgasms found in history may be poetic or musical inventions rather than common day-to-day terms, they're entertaining anyway. (Though they might be best left in books: can you really imagine a wench of the 1590s asking a gentleman to "cleave the pin"? Perhaps not.)

Some of these terms are clearly male-based, but others could be used for either gender. After all, female orgasms used to be seen as incredibly important: According to medical advice in the 13th century, couples looking to conceive needed to make sure they both orgasmed, at the same time — because women were thought to expel "seed" in the same sort of way as men, and the "seeds" mingled and became chubby little medieval babies. And then there's the famous "hysteria" of the 19th century, where women needed orgasms to relieve their poor overworked nerves (caused by sexual frustration).

Most of these euphemisms come from Green's Dictionary Of Slang (2010), in case you were hoping to find other ideas to put into your naughty times, while others have literary sources. And they certainly have a wide range. Blowing the lump, anybody?

1. 'Bring Off' (1570s)

This is surprisingly modern-sounding for a centuries-old term. "Get off" is still around as an old-fashioned phrase for orgasming: think the Prince song. I like this one better, though — it implies that somebody else did all the work.

2. 'Blow One's Lump' (1880s)

OK, this one just sounds uncomfortable. And it was probably about men, who were the only ones who blew "lumps" of anything. But it's too close to the modern "blowing chunks" for comfort.

3. 'Cleave The Pin' (1590s)

OK, I do not have much of an idea, even metaphorically, where this one was going. Old-fashioned clothes pins have two legs, so to pull them apart means to split somebody down the middle... ? Right, moving on.

4. 'Kick The Beam' (1920s)

This is applicable to everybody having sex in barns, I assume. Or for those who tend to break things (beds, wardrobes, delicate china) with their powerful thrashings in the throes of climax.

5. 'Break One's Arrow' (1600s)

OK, yes, but ouch. To break an arrow means to make it unusable again in the future — which, in an archery-based society, wasn't exactly a plus. And yes, this was definitely about dudes, and probably referenced the whole "comatose after sex" male stereotype.

6. 'Short Shoves' (1880s)

To give somebody the short shoves seems more like a description of the sex act just before orgasm than of what happens after it. But what do I know? I think cleaving the pin sounds ridiculous.

7. 'Let-Go' (1740s)

I can see this one coming back (ha ha) into common English these days. It's kind of charming and euphemistic, unless you're both having sex balanced precariously on the side of a cliff.

8. 'La Petite Mort' (Medieval Period)

This is one of the most common euphemisms in history, and isn't English at all — it's French, and means "the little death". (It's the one you've most likely heard before.) Death was often used as slang or a pun for orgasm in poetry and plays from the medieval period onwards.

9. 'Hard Strokes' (1830s)

Again, this seems a bit more of an action description than a consequence, but it's interesting to think that perhaps the two were one and the same. We distinguish orgasm from the act of sex itself; would it be better if we talked about them as one and the same more often?

10. 'Melt' (1620s)

OK, this one is adorable and so innocent it's almost safe for work. But it seems so liable to be misconstrued. "I melted at that cute dog video" would have to be taken straight out of your lexicon.

11. 'Fadings' (Late 1500s)

This was a favorite of Shakespeare when he set out to be sexy — and is similar, when you think about it, to the French la petite mort. The idea of orgasm being tied up with death, unconsciousness, or a loss of self was pretty powerful in early modern English — which is pretty accurate, and it's a shame we don't still use it.

12. 'Jet One's Juice' (1870s)

I am going to assume that this is male, because frankly it seems like the sort of thing a modern-day frat-boy would say. Humans don't really change over the centuries; it just looks like they do.

13. 'Crisis' (1920s)

DH Lawrence used this at great length in Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), and while it's not of his own invention it's trickier to find earlier examples. Crisis's actual technical meaning isn't a disaster per se: it's the decisive or ultimate point in a narrative, and is basically a synonym for "climax". The two are pretty strongly interrelated, but we don't use "crisis" any more, probably because it seems negative.

14. 'Crack Someone's Marbles' (1920s)

This is my favorite. Ever played marbles? The simplest aim is to hit the other player's marbles as hard as possible —with a loud "thwack". So this is metaphor that even sounds vigorous and fun. If you think I'm not using this in the future, you are dreaming.

Images: Castle Rock Entertainment; Giphy