To date, the by-far most popular post on this blog is my “Sexy Thesaurus,” a list of nouns that can be used for the sex organs.

However, if you’re writing, you might find yourself struggling with talking about not only their you-know-what, but also the actions they undertake! So, as a favor just for you, I’ve collected a whole list of sexy verbs. There are so many that this post will chronicle things that people do to others–you can find responses and other descriptive words in Part 3. As with the nouns, 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, read on for entertainment purposes!

This time, I looked at a 2000 Robin Schone erotic historical romance, a 2006 MaryJanice Davidson paranormal, a 1992 Janet Evanovich contemporary, and a 1990 Johanna Lindsay Pirate Regency (that’s all warped from the bath. Oops.). 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.)

These are generally grouped into categories, but most can be used very creatively and could describe many things:

The act in general (Note: there are a million metaphors and euphemisms for this, so I’m going to go with the most basic terms that I actually came across in the books):

  • lay with
  • bed
  • make love
  • bang
  • bone
  • shag
  • have sex
  • f*ck

[Laurel, one of your thesaurus words is horrible and I think no one should use it ever.]


  • settle over (mouth or body)
  • raise
  • rock (against)
  • grind
  • plump up
  • bob
  • bear (down on)
  • lift
  • twine/entwine
  • spread
  • pin
  • cover
  • tangle/entangle
  • nestle
  • encircle
  • anchor
  • guide
  • rest (between or against)
  • rotate
  • surround
  • bare
  • straddle


  • handle
  • trail (down, across, or up)
  • worship
  • swipe
  • rub
  • love
  • grab
  • caress
  • soothe
  • massage
  • move
  • cup
  • take
  • hold
  • sear
  • swirl
  • tug
  • trace
  • devote time to
  • crush
  • make love to
  • wrap (arms/hand/self around)
  • move
  • treat to
  • feel
  • yank
  • tease
  • roll (between)
  • brush
  • work
  • twist
  • sweep
  • cradle
  • sear
  • knead
  • tweak
  • finger
  • pull
  • slide
  • glide
  • seduce
  • tantalize
  • clasp
  • drag
  • wiggle
  • trail
  • grope
  • follow (the curve/line/angle of)
  • skim
  • torture
  • curl
  • stroke
  • inflame
  • creep
  • run (along)
  • peel
  • arouse
  • explore
  • give
  • scorch
  • pinch
  • savor
  • wriggle
  • seize
  • surge
  • cling
  • ravish
  • tickle
  • tap
  • plant (a kiss or hand)
  • nuzzle
  • clasp
  • clutch
  • pleasure
  • flick
  • catch
  • feather
  • possess
  • slither
  • map
  • test
  • weigh
  • linger
  • outline
  • nudge
  • stretch
  • grip
  • graze
  • cradle
  • force
  • grasp
  • circle
  • inch
  • scale
  • brand
  • abrade
  • play
  • scrape
  • flex
  • close (on/around)

Penetration of various orifices:

  • plunge (into)
  • push
  • settle (between/into)
  • fill
  • ravage
  • shove
  • press (down on or into)
  • enter
  • thrust
  • dip (into)
  • delve
  • embed
  • penetrate
  • bury
  • probe
  • impale
  • stab
  • burrow
  • tunnel
  • insert
  • dart
  • pierce
  • spear
  • prod
  • breach
  • sink (into)
  • tunnel
  • sheath

Um, is anyone else blushing yet? Let me know if I missed something essential–there’s a huge variety of vocab to explore!

35 thoughts on “The Sexy Thesaurus 2: A List of Action Words to Use in Your Romance Novel

    1. I’m not sure of your meaning here, but if you’re looking for synonyms for those, off the top of my head I have desire, yearning, thrill, tingle, ache, and (a particularly fun one) frisson. I’m going to be following up with an adjectives post soon!

  1. Hi Laurel.

    You word collections are exactly what I needed. Having written several Self-help books and a few novels, I had an idea for an erotic book, a collection of short stories. I’m currently up to 30,000 words with more to go.

    In my first draft I have cock, cock, cock which just seemed too repetitive. I could have used dick, but I think that Is heading towards crudeness. Penis is just to clinical, unless it is said in a joking way. I could have used nudger, which I think is really funny.

    When I do my first full read through of the complete book, I shall be utilising your list

    Would you like your blog mentioning in the acknowledgements?



    1. Thanks, Simon! I’m glad to hear this was of help. It’s kind of a weird thing that writers don’t seem to admit to, but I know I’m always thinking carefully about the subtext of the words I’m using, and often finding them awkward. It’s very kind of you to think of listing me in the acknowledgments! Since I gathered these words from other books, though, I don’t find an acknowledgment necessary 🙂


  2. It’s quite an email interesting topic, and useful indeed for all sorts of vocabs and synonyms, I’ve been doing a fanfiction, which I take seriously just as any other of my writings, and have been lost at which vocab to use and which ones are more common nowadays or which have gone out of date (sounds like a nice topic for part 3 of this post ;p

    Keep up the nice work and many thanks.

    1. Yes, that’s a great point about what’s out of date! I’ve noticed the language in the 80s bodice-rippers often seems more humorous to me. I think I’ll add it to the list of topics for the future!

  3. this is very helpful, thank you Laurel. As a second language english speaker I appreciated the help I got here while trying my best to write in english

  4. Great post! So much better than a Thesaurus when you need “those” kind of words. I have an idea for an additional list. How about a list of words to replace “cum” and “juices”. As in “her juices flowed” or “now glazed in her juices”… Also, a list of words to replace “orgasm”.

  5. I was really happy to find your posts when I Googled for a Thesaurus of terms for body parts and sexual activities. I’m making my first attempts to write love scenes for a screenplay, which feels almost as intimate as actually having sex! It hadn’t occurred to me that my trusty Thesaurus wouldn’t list words such as “penis.” I’ve had a difficult time finding/choosing words that strike a balance between being either too crude or too clinical. E.g. “giving head” vs. “performing oral sex”. I’m also finding it challenging to choose sexual terminology that will appeal to readers who are of another (younger than me) generation. E.g. the term “making love” seems almost Victorian in an age where the word “fucking” has taken over. Anyway, thanks for this great resource!

  6. Having not written anything since high school Eng. Lit., I decided to try my hand at a fan fiction one night. I had an idea rumbling around in my head, and I found myself at a loss for descriptives needed to write the blush inducing scenes. You have provided a terrific variety of ideas to use, without pushing any one style over another. Your effort is appreciated.

  7. Umm how about words to describe the “liquids”. I’m having trouble with coming up with words that don’t sound so blunt.

  8. Hello!

    I challenged myself to write a non-conventional love story (polyandry) with very hot but loving sex scenes here and there. I don’t want to use dirty words for moments that are not dirty. I want to use beautiful and sexy words for beautiful and sexy moments. I found (almost) all I needed here! Thank you so much!

    I have a suggestion, the one topic that still gets me repeting myself: orgasm. My only ideas are:

    – explosion (of pleasure)
    – firework
    – climax
    – spasm
    – pulse
    – bathing someones’s insides
    – release/shoot love cream/juice/nectar
    – adding his semen

    Not enough for a novel with a minimum of four orgasms in each sex scene! 😉

    Thank you!

  9. Love this!!! How about words for sexy sounds? There’s moaning, groaning, ragged whispers, gasping breaths… sounds emitted or other words to describe how something is being said would be so awesome 🙂

  10. Late to this party but you know what we need more of? Great ways to talk about the prostate. Because “prostate” is not a sexy word.

    1. This is an excellent point! Suggestions welcome – I feel like I’ve seen “walnut” for some reason. This one doesn’t seem to appear much outside of explicit erotica (though there may be room for that to change).

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