Antedating of Euphemistic Sense of "Make Love"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Aug 20 17:25:07 UTC 2014

How about this citation:

make love (OED, s.v. love, n.1 P.3(b), 1927)

1883 _Kentucky Opinions_ 12: 21 (Lexis)  As a defense to the action he pleaded that she was an unchaste woman, and the fact that she had given birth to an illegitimate child would have been sufficient to authorize the jury to find for him, unless it had been shown that the gratification of his own animal desires prompted him to make love to this confiding and unfortunate girl.

Fred Shapiro
YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Jonathan Lighter [wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 12:38 PM
Subject: Re: Early Example of "Make Love" Meaning "Have Sex"

Much better.

One suspects that the euphemism (perhaps only in speech) is quite old,
since "love" in the relevant sense goes back centuries.

Before the 1920s, I doubt that so "degraded" a euphemism would have been
found outside of court transcripts.


On Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 7:24 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Early Example of "Make Love" Meaning "Have Sex"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Another probable early example of "make love" meaning "have sex" is from
> _L=
> ady Chatterley=92s Lover_:
>     =91It seems to me you might leave the labels off sex. We=92re free to
> t=
> alk to anybody; so why shouldn=92t we be free to make love to any woman
> who=
>  inclines us that way?=92
>     =91There speaks the lascivious Celt,=92 said Clifford.
> Fred Shapiro=
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list