Earliest English-Language Usage of "Homosexual"

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Feb 6 23:43:05 UTC 2003

On Thu, 6 Feb 2003 Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote [referring to a 1908 source]:

> Pg. 231:  The fifth class is constituted by the onanism of sexual
> inverts, and may be called _essential onanism_.  This concerns men whose
> sexual appetite is directed toward their own sex instead of the other.
> They are called _homosexual_, and mutual onanism is, so to speak, the
> normal satisfaction of their inverted appetite. (OED has "homosexual"
> from 1892, but see "B" of that definition, from 1912--ed.)

Barry is referring to the word "homosexual" used as a noun.  See my 1988
article in American Speech, "Earlier Citations for Terms Characterizing
Homosexuals," for an 1892 citation for "homosexual" as a noun:

1892 _Chicago Medical Recorder_ III. 198-99  Pure homosexuals ... general
mental state is that of the opposite sex.

OED's first use of "homosexual" as an adjective is dated 1892 (Chaddock's
translation of Krafft-Ebing).  That translation should correctly be dated
1893.  I have contributed the following antedating of "homosexual" as an
adjective to the OED:

1891 John A. Symonds _A Problem of Modern Ethics_ in Brian Reade _Sexual
Heretics_ (1970) 254  The author [Richard Francis Burton] endeavoured to
co-ordinate a large amount of miscellaneous matter, and to frame a general
theory regarding the origin and prevalence of homosexual passions.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
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