View synonyms for nymphomaniac


[ nim-fuh-mey-nee-ak, nim-foh‑ ]


  1. a woman who has abnormally excessive and uncontrollable sexual desire.


  1. (of a woman) having abnormally excessive sexual desire.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of nymphomaniac1

First recorded in 1825–30; nymphomani(a) ( def ) + -ac ( def )

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Example Sentences

Then there was the geriatric nymphomaniac who proceeded to snort lines of cocaine from atop the marble countertop in the kitchen as we discussed selling her house while the pool boy hung out in the nearby cabana.

But, you’re on the definition page for nymphomaniac … So, nymphomaniac is a sex-obsessed woman, got it.

But he broke it to discuss the uncut version of Nymphomaniac at the Venice Film Festival (kind of).

But first, Skarsgard discussed how he came onboard Nymphomaniac.

The second “lifeline” was what von Trier had learned about female sexuality by making Nymphomaniac.

But even his biggest defenders will flinch at the assaults, sexual or not, that Joe has to endure in Nymphomaniac.

The best and hardest thing about Nymphomaniac is watching the toll that sex takes on Joe.

The maternal great-grandmother was a nymphomaniac, whose son married a woman of loose morals, by whom a daughter was born.

And he said nothing when still a third nurse came his way; a woman who was callid, complaisant, and nauseatingly nymphomaniac.

For an instant "nymphomaniac" flashed across his consciousness.

You certainly had your hands full—a dual personality and a nymphomaniac.

I once described her as a maternal nymphomaniac, a metaphysical Messalina.


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About This Word

What does nymphomaniac mean?

A nymphomaniac is a woman, though occasionally a man, with an uncontrollable desire to have lots of sex, especially with different partners. It can be both a positive or pejorative term, depending on context.

Content warning: the following content includes references to sexual activity.

Where did the term nymphomaniac come from?

The word nymphomaniac ultimately comes from Greek roots that give us nymph and mania. The Ancient Greek source of nymph meant “young woman” or “bride,” and may be most familiar in the form of beautiful, powerful, sexualized, mythological maidens. Mania literally means “frenzied madness,” seen in words like pyromania or egomania.

Nymphomania is found in the early 1700s, its noun form, nymphomaniac, in the 1820s. In the 18th and 19th centuries, some doctors treated nymphomania as a disease and sent women to hospitals or asylums for horrific surgical treatments. They were mostly perfectly healthy—just, in the full force of double standards, not conforming to the sexual norms of the day.

In his 1955 classic Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov has his adult male protagonist call his 12-year-old obsession, Lolita, a nymphet. As linguist Christen Helper found, the novel helped increase both nymphet and nympho, a shortened form since the 1930s, in the mainstream. As women gradually became more open about their sexuality, they were more often called nymphomaniacs, implying they were sexually promiscuous.

Nymphomania is not a formal disease name. Hypersexuality (sex addiction) is a recognized affliction affecting all genders and sexual orientations, and those affected with it may get called nymphomaniacs in popular culture.

While nymphomaniac is occasionally for men, it is mostly a gendered, when not outright sexist, term for a “female sex addict” or a woman perceived as promiscuous. There is a male equivalent, but it is rare: satyriasis, after the mythic, sexualized satyr.

In 2013–14, director Lars Von Trier released an epic, erotic, and darkly funny two-part film called Nymphomaniac, recounting the many sexual experiences of a woman and self-described nymphomaniac.

Who uses the term nymphomaniac?

As noted, nymphomaniac usually refers to a woman. When women use of it themselves, it is usually sex-positive for a high libido and openness to many sexual partners.

When men use it of women, it can be used in desire, for a partner who wants to have frequent sex, or denigration, just like a fancy word for the slur “slut.”

Nymphomaniacs are also, unsurprisingly, common in pornography.


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.