[ mur-kuhn ]
/ ˈmɜr kən /
Save This Word!

false hair for the female pudenda.
There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Origin of merkin

First recorded in 1610–20; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does merkin mean?

A merkin is a pubic wig, especially for women. It is placed over the genitals to simulate pubic hair and to keep the private body parts from full exposure.

Where does merkin come from?

The merkin, as an object, has been dated back to the 1450s, by women to cover genitals that had been shaved to get rid of lice. It is also used to cover evidence of sexual disease, especially by sex workers, who additionally used merkins to decorate their bodies.

One possible origin of the word merkin is malkin, an insult dating back to the 1200s for lower-class women (which may ultimately originate from a pet form of the name Mary).

Merkins may also have been historically used by European male actors, who would don the pieces in order to portray female roles. The use of merkins in entertainment has continued to this day, with actors on film, stage, and screen wearing merkins, variously realistic and fanciful in appearance, to hide their genitals from view to avoid full-frontal nudity.

And, the term isn’t forgotten by the entertainment industry either. Merkin Muffley is the suggestive name of the fictional President of the United States in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. Others, including male drag performers, may wear them for erotic or dramatic effect.

How is merkin used in real life?

While merkin isn’t itself considered a vulgar word, some may find its purpose, and thus the term, inappropriate or obscene.

Outside of commercial or personal use, merkin’s sexual associations can lend the word to some irreverent wordplay.

More examples of merkin:

“As an erotic accessory, the merkin knows no bounds; it can be used by men in drag, or it can act as a decorative object, suggestive of sexual innocence, promiscuity, or any other number of sexually charged meanings.”
—Dan Hoffman, Thought Catalog, March 2011

How to use merkin in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for merkin

/ (ˈmɜːkɪn) /

an artificial hairpiece for the pudendum; a pubic wig
obsolete the pudendum itself

Word Origin for merkin

C16: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012