Genitalia. Coitus. Osculation.

You’d be hard-pressed to open a romance novel without finding these three things – but odds are, you won’t find these words. (By the way, osculation is the scientific word for kissing. I didn’t know either.) Writers and readers of romance know there are endless euphemisms for the private bits, the sexy times, and everything leading up to them.

If you’re writing, you might find yourself struggling with talking about his or her… err… you-know-what. But fear not – I’ve got you covered. Some of these are cringe-inducing, and some blush-provoking, but I have not discriminated in collecting an assortment here. Even if you’re not writing, I’m sure you’ll find some of these amusing. (And if you’re looking for more words, try Part 2 and Part 3!)

For research, I turned to my bookshelf, grabbing a 2010 Kieran Kramer Regency romance, a 2004 Julia Quinn Regency, a 2004 Mercedes Lackey Fantasy (which happens to be my all-time favorite book and is literally falling apart), and a 1989 Laurie Grant that I haven’t actually read. Oh, and I also took a look at my own contemporary erotic romance novella.

(FAIR WARNING: We’re talking R-rated vocab here. Flee now if that scares you.)

Update: I’ve ordered them in terms of naughtiness now. Maybe that will help ease you in a little.

Words Generally Associated With Vaginas & Adjacent Sex Organs
(I’ve used she/her pronouns here but that doesn’t mean you have to) 

  • the heart of her femininity
  • her center
  • her core
  • between her legs
  • junction of her thighs
  • groin
  • flower
  • her essence
  • her entrance
  • her sex
  • womb
  • mound
  • box
  • mons
  • quim
  • sheath
  • crease
  • slit
  • crevice
  • pool of moisture
  • honeypot
  • folds
  • inner lips
  • nub
  • bud
  • orifice
  • mouth of her arousal
  • canal
  • pink pearl
  • vulva
  • labia
  • clitoris
  • vagina
  • clit
  • pussy
  • c*nt

[Laurel, One of Your Thesaurus Words is Horrible and I Think No One Should Use It Ever]

 Words Generally Associated with Penises and Adjacent Sex Organs
(I’ve used he/him pronouns here, but you don’t have to)

  • groin
  • manhood
  • his sex
  • arousal
  • package
  • bulge
  • his length
  • erection
  • staff
  • member
  • rod
  • shaft
  • appendage
  • stalk
  • organ
  • lingam
  • balls
  • phallus
  • sack
  • testicles
  • penis
  • scrotum
  • dick
  • cock

Well, apparently we writers are a creative bunch. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments if you have a particular favorite that I didn’t catch! And if you want to share your opinion on every word here, head over to my crowd-sourced survey!

Looking for actions or descriptions, not body parts? Check out Sexy Thesaurus Part 2: Actions and Sexy Thesaurus Part 3: Descriptions, including the commonly requested synonyms for “wet” and “hard”!

Bonus: While researching this post, I read the grossest paragraph I have ever discovered on Wikipedia: “The similarity in the methods between kiss-feeding and deep human kisses (e.g. French kiss) are quite pronounced; in the former, the tongue is used to push food from the mouth of the mother to the child with the child receiving both the mother’s food and tongue in sucking movements, and the latter is the same but forgoes the premasticated food. In fact, through observations across various species and cultures, it can be confirmed that the act of kissing and premastication has most likely evolved from the similar relationship-based feeding behaviours.” Ew.

72 thoughts on “The Sexy Thesaurus: A List of Words to Use in Your Romance Novel

  1. Hi, you missed phallus and lingam for guys, and yoni for girls – from the world of tantra. Also honey pot.. xx

    1. Lingam isn’t a penis. Lingam refers to a Shiva Lingam which is an idol that represents Shiva. Usually there are three lines on it and you can think of it as his head though it really just represents him as an entity. You pour milk on it at a temple. It’s not a penis, that’s silly… he’s an otherworldly being, why would people worship his penis.

      Tantra is about discipline… it doesn’t have anything to do with sex except maybe abstaining from pleasure.

      1. Thank you so much for the clarification. While I know many folks associate lingam and yoni with genitals, I think this does a good job of highlighting that you should proceed with caution and research before writing with terms that come from a specific cultural or religious context!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Nancy! I can’t believe I missed sheath! Regarding velvet, it is a particularly favorite ‘sexy adjective’ of mine. I’m actually intending a follow-up thesaurus post that will go into adjectives, so you’ll see that there eventually! 🙂

    1. I have to say, it isn’t one of my favorites. My biggest complaint is how non-specific it is – when I was a teen getting my whole understanding of sex from books, I’d be like “…um, core? So like, inside her? Poking her? WHICH PART OF HER IS BEING TOUCHED?”

      1. Not to mention that mostly when I hear”core” they are speaking of the muscles in the midsection!

    2. I agree on that one for “Core” the one I personally hate the most is the use of “Sex” for example “i plunged my member into her sex” to me using the word “sex” to decribe sexual organs sound like it was written by a 13 year old

  2. I’m really glad I found your blog and this post.. I struggle to think of different words that fit the situation when I’m writing my erotic stories. you are a real life saver

  3. Thanks for the list, here’s something you may or may not want to use for Balls / Sack. “Boys” My partner simply refers to them as her Boys. One more thing. As you have stated there are some body parts that the correct name isn’t all that attractive such as a females ass hole. Not sure if I saw anything in your list that covered that if so I apologies but thought I would throw this one into the mix. Star fish….running the tip of a moist fingertip around her star fish sounds a little better than ass hole. That is unless someone just enjoys a sharper tone.

  4. How would you describe a woman’s wetness? I’m having a hard time coming up with different ways to describe my character’s arousal.

    1. Great question! I tend to go with simpler options, ex. “slick folds,” damp, moisture, etc. With that said I’ve seen much more flowery options like “dew,” “honey,” “nectar,” and “essence” among others.

  5. Thank you so much for this list! I have been struggling to find the right words to use. I don’t want it to sound dirty but still described enough for readers to understand what I’m intending.

  6. This is the second post I’ve seen where reading through the comments exposes some weird contradictions. We want romance, we want sex, but we don’t want it explicitly described or “dirty”. Instead we want..flowery euphemisms? Food analogies? I’m continually surprised how much people want good sex graphically written but are afraid to actually call things by their common name.

  7. thank you so much for this! was getting to wit’s end because my brain is just not in the right place… can i just say…please remove mound in the hopes that people stop using it *grins* always takes me straight out of the moment…makes me think of mole hills…but yah, have been advised to be more synonymish and less… pornographic and specific so this list is a life saver! *save to bookmarks*

  8. This is terrifically useful. I write some mild sex scenes in my novels and sometimes it’s a bit difficult to not use the same one or two words. “Center” is a good one to add to my usual mix of “her sex” or “her folds.” Thanks!

  9. Excellent and very useful list. What about synonyms for breasts? I usually find myself alternating between “breasts” and “tits,” because every other non-slang term sounds too clinical, and every other slang term sounds silly (I can’t imagine anyone over there age of 15 unironically using the word “boobs,” for example).

    Even “tits” sounds a bit silly, but it’s the least-silly slang term I can come up with, and mixing it up a bit reads better than just using “breasts” over and over.

  10. Thanks for this, very helpful! The words you use when writing a love scene can be the difference between a sensual steamy exchange between to lovers and a raunchy penthouse submission, lol.

  11. Concerning the bit at the end… Have you ever taken a look at some books on Philematology (The art or study of kissing)? Yes, theres a word for it. Theres lots of interesting articles around… Have fun!

  12. “Quim” for me is a great word, referring specifically to the skin leading from the opening of the vagina to the clitoris. As in ” He slowly and thoroughly explored her pink, moist quim with his tongue”.

  13. Hello, I like your post very much and find it very useful. May I translate it into Chinese to let more people know about English sexy words? I will attach original link and claim it’s your work. Thank you very much.

  14. I am an amateur writer, but working hard to complete my book. I have been using the word “muscle” for a man. I find it incredibly arousing to think of holding, stroking or feeling his “rigid muscle”. It’s powerful and makes him sound strong and, to me, says he is impressive.

  15. All your lists are such a great resource. Thank you for maintaining them. But still none of these capture what I’m trying to say. I don’t often read romance, so I’m not as familiar with how to really phrase the feeling I am trying to describe. And the area I am trying to point out! It’s not *just* the vagina or any specific outer part of it – it goes all the way practically from navel to …ahem, asshole. I want it to sound not-clinical, not-vulgar, but also not like I’ve just been reading a whole bunch of unimaginative fanfic or something. Do you understand my frustration? Wide open for suggestions! (no puns intended!)

    1. Hmmmmm. I so feel you on the frustration – all of this is hard to put into words. And one person’s yum is another person’s squick! Are we talking about the interior sort of arousal that a woman experiences? I’ve seen this referred to as her center, in her abdomen, “deep at the heart of her arousal,” building tension – a lot of these phrases I think betray the effort required to convey this. Perhaps vaguer is better in this case, as each reader can interpret it personally. Core, center, etc., may benefit you. Best of luck!

  16. This list has been so helpful! Thanks so much! Also, a couple of euphemisms I use frequently are ‘womanhood’ or, if referring to one who is losing her virginity for the first time, ‘maidenhood’ or ‘maidenhead.’

  17. I’m so sorry sweetheart but listen,,, never use penis or vagina they sound too clinical. if you have to, use dick and cock. do not. DO NOT use organ, or shaft, or something that will make you laugh. i see that shit and i crack up, man. that’s the funniest thing on the planet and it is SUCH a turn off.

    list of words NOT to use, ever, unless you’re writing a comedy:

    the heart of her femininity
    her center
    her core
    between her legs
    her essence
    her entrance
    womb (WHAT!!! NO!!! DO YOU KNOW HOW ANATOMY WORKS?????!!! NO!)
    pool of moisture
    inner lips
    mouth of her arousal
    pink pearl
    vulva (too clinical!)
    labia (too clinical!)
    clitoris (too clinical!)
    vagina (too clinical!)
    pussy (no.)
    his sex
    erection (absolutely not. no ma’am,)
    appendage (no!!!!)
    stalk (why?)
    organ (ajakjbSCJHWALJCHBQLW NO)
    lingam (stop,, please)
    phallus (NOOOOOO)
    testicles (too clinical)
    penis (too clinical)
    scrotum (too clinical)

    now listen, sweetheart, I’m not raggin on you, I’m tryin to save you from looking like a whole entire circus. if you’re writing a bodice ripper and you want to sound like a man who has never touched a woman ever in his entire life and never will, be my guest to use all of these. bodice rippers are catered towards a specific crowd! but, if you’re serious about writing literotica, then take a step back. don’t go off porn, this should be by women, for women, because if we’re being honest? who else is reading erotica? write what you want to read. if you’re not hot and bothered by what you’re writin, then you’re doin it wrong.

    1. Opinions are always welcome and it’s a very personal process, of course! That’s why you’ll notice that this is actually a list of words found in other published sex scenes, rather than any list of my personal favorites. I’m with you in thinking some of these are awful (though not all of them). Ultimately it’s a chance to consider the vocab that’s out there and find what fits you and your writing – we agree that you should write what you want to read!

  18. Hi! Thank you for this sexy thesaurus series. Could you do one about other body parts? I really struggle with belly and belly button sounding really childish but abs and navel not sounding quite right either :/

    1. Great idea – I was also just thinking everything backside related is lacking from this as it currently stands. Off the top of my head, as well as stomach I will occasionally say something more directionally descriptive, ie. “the stretch of taut skin below her ribs” but navel/belly button is a really tricky one! Maybe someone else will come along with a brilliant idea.

    1. Great question – unsexy but also uncontroversial answer: rather than this being anything about my personal feelings on the word or censorship, it’s because SEI and google place profanity much lower in search result listings. Censoring lets this page show up closer to the top of the list when folks search for a resource like this!

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