From A Little Hill to Shameful Touching: Clitoral Etymologies

Bill Beck has a good article on Eidolon about the way ancient (and eventually Modern) etymology and “word science” manipulates the concept of the original meaning of words in order to reinforce various types of dominant cultural discourse.

Here is another example, the history of the word clitoris. I have arranged the examples in roughly chronological order.

Hesychius

“Kleitoris: the over-covering skin [lit. of hypodoris?] of a woman’s genitals. From where we get the word kleitoriazein, which means to rub or touch [as in to masturbate].”

κλειτορίς· τοῦ γυναικείου αἰδοίου ἡ ὑποδορίς, ἔνθεν καὶ τὸ κλειτοριάζειν τὸ ψηλαφᾶν

Etymologicum Magnum

Klitorion:… it also means a woman’s genitals. From this we also find the verb klitoriazein which means “touching shamefully”

Σημαίνει δὲ καὶ τὸ αἰδοῖον τῆς γυναικός· ὅθεν καὶ κλιτοριάζειν λέγεται τὸ αἰσχρῶς ἅπτεσθαι.

Suda, mu 1462

Murton: “myrtle berry” The form of the female genitalia in the middle of which is the clitoris. From this we get the word kleitorizesthai which means to touch oneself licentiously. The lip is the hupodoris and the sides the myrtle-lips

Μύρτον: τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ γυναικείου αἰδοίου, οὗ τὸ μεταξὺ κλειτορίς. ἀφ’ οὗ τὸ ἀκολάστως ἕπεσθαι κλειτορίζεσθαι. τὸ δὲ χεῖλος ὑποδορίς, τὸ δὲ σύμπτωμα μυρτοχείλη.

Note in the following and the former the difference between the active and middle  voices

Michael Apostolios

Klitoriazein: applied to pedarasts. Or for those who are licentious towards women [or “to licentious behavior for women”?]

Κλιτοριάζειν: ἐπὶ τῶν παιδεραστῶν· ἢ ἐπὶ τῶν γυναιξὶν ἀκολάστων.

kleitoris

The LSJ is a little bashful about this:

kleitoris lsj

 

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