"Fuck" is one of the strongest and most controversial vulgarismss in the English language, invariably considered offensive in polite situations. It is, however, rather common in daily use, as well as in popular, or vulgar, 20th century culture. "To fuck" is to copulate (as in "let's fuck"), but it also carries a context of a general-purpose expletive, as in "fuck off!" (go away!), or "what a dumbfuck" ("What a stupid person").

In mass culture, the word "fuck" has grown in usage, and rules allowing it and other vulgar expletives have softened -- largely due to demand trends. It is still often censoreded on broadcast radio and television. A similar kind of censoring is offered on many online forums, where users are given options to filter out vulgarities. It is not considered acceptable in general usage.

Table of contents
1 Writing
2 Secondary meanings
3 Linguistics
4 History of usage and censorship
5 Etymology
6 Related Topics
7 Further Reference
8 External Links


In situations where using or mentioning the word directly may be considered inappropriate, people often Bowdlerize it, replacing it with the f-word, frig, freak, f*ck, f-u!, or f***. In software contexts, fsck, fuk, fark and f2k are also used. In the formerly British Caribbean nations it is sometimes spelled fock. In the TV series Farscape, characters use the word frell. In the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, it is sometimes replaced with zark (and in one case, Belgium). In the Judge Dredd universe, it is replaced with drokk. Characters on the BBC television series Red Dwarf were known to utter smeg as an epithet, clearly intended as a substitute for fuck. In David Lodge's comic novel Ginger You're Barmy about the British National Service, it is replaced with fugg.

The fashion house French Connection United Kingdom controversially uses its initials, usually in lower case, viz: fcuk.

The previously mentioned fsck usage is derived from the Unix command fsck(8) for "file-system check". It has been noted that this command is particularly appropriate, as it is the option of last resort. Fark is a bowdlerization which originated in the British Commonwealth countries, derived from exaggerated pronunciation in, for example, the Australian accent.

Secondary meanings

As with other swearwords and taboo words, or intensifiers, fuck is often not used in its original, literal meaning. Rather, it is an intensifier expressing nothing but the speaker's strong emotional involvement (often negatively, but not necessarily: e.g. "fucking good" is a rude way of saying "very good"). In the book Practical English Usage, the two meanings of the word are clearly illustrated by juxtaposing the sentences:

What are you doing fucking in my bed?
What are you fucking doing in my bed?

The first sentence means "Why are you copulating in my bed?", while the second merely emphasizes the sentence "What are you doing in my bed?". The second usage is more common than the first.

"Fuck you!" expresses anger, and thus seems to be more related to "I am so angry at you, I am going to rape you to punish you" than to "I would like to lovingly have sexual intercourse with you". It may also express indifference with respect to the well-being of another person or of other people in general, for example reacting to a request, or the imposing of rules.

Probably its strangest use of all is as a replacement for the word God in profane statements. For example "Fuck knows" means something like "I don't know, and neither is anyone ever likely to know".



The word can be used as a
verb both transitive:
He fucked her.
and intransitive:
Don't fuck around!


She is a fantastic fuck.
He is a real fuck.




participle "fucking" (or "fuckin'") is sometimes inserted in the middle of a word as an intensifier, a process known as expletive infixation. For example:
He was abso-fuckin-lutely gorgeous!

History of usage and censorship

The earliest reference appears to be the name ‘John Le Fucker,’ which John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins dates to 1278. What John did to earn this name is unknown.

William Dunbar's 1503 poem Brash of Wowing includes the lines: "Yit be his feiris he wald haif fukkit:/ Ye brek my hairt, my bony ane."

While Shakespeare never used the term explicitly, he may have hinted at it in comic scenes in several plays. The Merry Wives of Windsor (IV.i) contains focative case (see vocative case). In Henry V (IV.iv), Pistol threatens to firk (strike) a soldier, a euphemism for fuck.

Fuck did not appear in any dictionary of the English language from 1795 to 1965. Its first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary (along with the word cunt) was in 1972.

In 1900, the Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales said "Fuck it, I've taken a bullet" when he was shot by an anarchist while standing on a Brussels railway station.

The liberal usage of the word (and other vulgarisms) by certain artists (such as James Joyce, Henry Miller, and Lenny Bruce) has led to the banning of their works and criminal charges of obscenity.

After Norman Mailer's publishers convinced him to bowdlerize fuck as fug in his work The Naked and the Dead (1948), Tallulah Bankhead supposedly greeted him with the quip, "So you're the young man who can't spell fuck." (In fact, according to Mailer, the quip was from a PR man and he and Bankhead never met until 1966 and did not discuss the word then.)

The films Ulysses and I'll Never Forget What's'isname (both 1967) are contenders for being the first film to use the word. Since the adoption of the MPAA film rating system, use of the word has been accepted in R-rated movies (and one use of the word is allowed in PG-13 movies). Since the 1970s, the use of the word fuck in R-rated movies has become so commonplace in mainstream American movies that it is rarely noticed by most audiences. Nonetheless, a few movies have made exceptional use of the word, to the point where such films as Scarface (1983), Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas are known for its extensive use. In the popular comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, it is the chief word, repeatedly uttered, during the opening five minutes.

In a similar vein, many stand-up comedians who perform for adult audiences make liberal use of the word fuck. While George Carlin's use of the word is an important part of his stage persona, other comedians (such as Andrew Dice Clay) have been accused of substituting vulgarity and offensiveness for genuine creativity through overuse of the word. Billy Connolly was a pioneer of the use of the word in his shows for general audiences.

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the mere public display of fuck is protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendment and cannot be made a criminal offense. In 1968, Paul Robert Cohen had been convicted of "disturbing the peace" by wearing a jacket with "FUCK THE DRAFT" on it. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal and overturned by the Supreme Court. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15. (1971).

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission forbids the use of fuck (and other so-called four-letter words) on broadcast television and radio "at times of day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience"; it is usually replaced by a beep.

Various people (primarily musical guests) have said the word on the weekly American late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live, generally with little consequence. On the February 26, 1981 show Charles Rocket, playing J.R. Ewing, said clearly "Oh man, it's the first time I've been shot in my life. I'd like to know who the fuck did it." He and the rest of the cast (except Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy) were fired soon thereafter. The show was in a slump at the time, so Rocket's indiscretion may only have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Pornographer Larry Flynt, representing himself before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983 in a libel case, shouted "Fuck this court!" during the proceedings and called the justices "nothing but eight assholes and a token cunt". Chief justice Warren E. Burger had him arrested for contempt of court but the charge was later dismissed.

In 1965, the critic Kenneth Tynan was the first person to say fuck on BBC television, during a late-night live talk show, hosted by Eamonn Andrews, causing a furore and a short TV career for Tynan. For British broadcasting, the next stage was reached in 1976 when the word was pointedly used in a prime-time early evening show, during a live interview with the Sex Pistols.

The Channel 4 television comedy series Father Ted introduced to Britain an Irish swear-word which was almost fuck and not quite a euphemism, prolifically used by the drunken and lecherous priest Father Jack Hackett: feck. This term is becoming commonplace in usage in the United Kingdom as a consequence of the popularity of this series.

Following the death of Monty Python legend Graham Chapman a memorial speech was held on his behalf read by fellow Monty Python actor John Cleese, which claims to be the first time someone has said the word "fuck" in a British memorial service.

Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau caused a scandal when he was reported to have said "fuck" in the House of Commons, on February 16, 1971. According to the official record, he did not say it; he mouthed it. He said later that he had actually said "fuddle-duddle," a phrase which then took on a humorous connotation of that event for Canadians.


Its root is unclear; its earliest recorded use is before 1500, from the English-Latin poem Flen flyys: "Non sunt in celi quia fuccant uuiuys of heli" ("They are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of Ely").

There is an evident connection to the German word ficken (to fuck, in dialects: to rub, to scratch, and historically: to strike), and to the Latin futuere (hence the French foutre and Italian fottere), but there is considerable doubt and no clear lineage for these derivations. These roots, even if cognate, are not the original Indo-European word for to fuck; that root is likely *yebh-, which is attested in Sanskrit and the Slavic languages, among others.

It has cognates in other Germanic languages, such as Middle Dutch fokken (to thrust, to copulate), dialectical Norwegian fukka (to copulate), and dialectical Swedish focka (to strike, copulate) and fock (penis).

There is perhaps even an original Celtic derivation; futuere being related to battuere (to strike, to copulate); which may be related to Irish bot and Manx bwoid (penis). The argument is that battuere and futuere (like the Irish and Manx words) comes from the Celtic *bactuere (to pierce), from the root buc- (a point). An even earlier root may be the Egyptian petcha (to copulate), which has a highly suggestive hieroglyph.

Part of the reason for the difficulty of the etymology is that the word was too taboo for the original Oxford English Dictionary.

There are many imaginative, false folk etymologies, including the acronyms "Fornication Under Consent of the King", which was supposedly placed on signs above houses in medieval England during times of population control, and "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", supposedly written on the stocks above people who committed adultery or "Forced Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" in various things linked to rape cases. These acronyms were never heard before the 1960s, according to the authoritative lexicographical work, The F-Word.

Related Topics

Further Reference

  • Jesse Sheidlower, The F Word (1999) ISBN 0375706348. Presents hundreds of uses of fuck and related words.
  • Michael Swan, Practical English Usage , OUP, 1995, ISBN 019431197X

External Links