Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fornicating Under Consent of the King

Although acronymic origins for words are rare, many people insist that the word “fuck” was derived from one of two acronyms: Fornication Under Consent of the King or For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

The story behind the first is that married couples were required to obtain the king’s permission to engage in intercourse. Beyond the fact that this never happened, the original definition of “fornication” betrays this theory. Traditionally, “fornication” did not refer to sex within the context of marriage.

As far as the other acronym is concerned, it is unlikely that prisoners would be labeled as such, if for nothing else the fact that the word “for” was not usually used to mark crimes in the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, a wrongdoer in the stocks might be sentenced to wear a sign that says “stealing,” not “for stealing.”

The “f-word,” which is very versatile, is usually used in relation to sex, as an insult, or to express distress, frustration, pain, and almost any other emotion you can think of. It is also a word that lies at the heart of the Free Speech debate, so it tends to polarize public opinion.

The actual origins of the word are much less exciting than the false acronyms. With its earliest usage in 1503, the word “fuck” comes from the Dutch “fokken” (to breed, as in cattle), from Swedish dialect “fokka” (to copulate) or “focca” (to strike, push), and Norwegian dialect “fukka” (to copulate).

Steven Anderson’s 2005 documentary “Fuck” explores the word’s origins and why it offends. But watch out: they use the “f-word” a whopping 824 times in this film. With the exclusion of pornographic films, the next runner up is “Nil by Mouth” (1997) with a mere 470 uses.


  1. haha funny story, i have a wristband that says fuck on it and a lady on an airplane i was riding told me that it originally stood for fornication under consent of the king, so i looked it up and sure enough now i can wear it in school. xD

  2. yeah... really funny story... not

  3. maybe my post was not clear but "fuck" does NOT man fornication under consent of the king. It is one of those fun urban legends. I suppose I need to update these things.


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