What’s the Origin of the F-word?

In other words, what is the origin of the f-word? Originally, this was a quite acceptable word, though no English speaker would say that today. It was recorded in a dictionary in 1598 (John Florio’s A Worlde of Wordes, London: Arnold Hatfield for Edw. Blount). It is remotely derived from the Latin futuere and Old German ficken/fucken meaning ‘to strike or penetrate’, which had the slang meaning ‘to copulate’. Eric Partridge, a famous etymologist, said that the German word was related to the Latin words for “pugilist,” “puncture,” and “prick.”

The word, which entered English in the late 15th century, became rarer in print in the 18th century when it came to be regarded as vulgar. It was even banned from the Oxford English Dictionary. In 1960, Grove Press (in the US) won a court case permitting it to print the word legally for the first time in centuries — in D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (written in 1928). One folk etymology, which is incorrect, is that it derives from “[booked] for unlawful carnal knowledge.”