Provenance of the term "horny"?

Does anyone know how long the term “horny”, as a cruder synonym for “aroused sexually”, has been in use? Has it been around since the 19th century?

I want to refer to an old man, in a period piece I’m collaborating on, as “a horny old bastand”. But if a different term would be better I’d like to know.

In searching I’ver not found an answer, but have sound some…odd…websites.

Horny: Word of the Day

Alt Usage English

Somewhat surprisingly, it didn’t come up in a search of the complete works of Shakespeare, so I think we can at least say that it wasn’t in useage by 1616. Because if it were, the Bard would surely have used it.

And so I collide with Squink. Yes, I was aware that “horn” could mean “penis” (or other sexual meanings; horns were also a symbol of a cuckold) in Shakespeare’s works, but the question is about the adjectival form.

While the use of the term “horn” as a euphemism for penis might date to the 16th century, as suggested by Squink’s citation, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest use of the term “horny” to describe a person in a state of sexual excitement as 1889.

Here is the full list of OED quotations for “horny”:

Should add, i guess, that the OED’s first citation is from a dictionary of slang, suggesting that the word was in popular use for some time before the 1889 publication date.

I just asked my wife, who does research in mid-nineteenth century pornographic texts (mainly the “sporting” or “racy” press) if she had ever come across the term, and she said that she had not. The texts she uses are mainly American.

I love this place. Sniff!

Thanks for all the links. The story I’m working with is set in 1883, so I can probably get away with using the term then. mhendo’s OED link has the earliest known in print usage being 1889, but terms often are in general usage before being written down.

Thanks for all the replies!

P.S. The character speaking would be an American,** mhendo**.

the master speaks… http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_286a.html

oh and any horny sailors interested in a game of Able-whackets

“- A popular sea-game with cards, in which the loser is beaten over the palms of the hands with a handkerchief tightly twisted like a rope. Very popular with horny-fisted sailors.” [Smyth, “Sailor’s Word-Book,” 1867]"

from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=horny&searchmode=none

Well, it seems that Cecil made the mistake of conflating the noun “horn” with the adjective “horny.” While there is surely some sort of connection, i’ve still seen no evidence that “horny,” in the sense required by the OP, was used before the 19th century.

And i’m also skeptical that your Sailor’s Word-Book cite answers the OP’s question, because a reference to “horny-handed” need have nothing to do with arousal or sexuality. The use of “horny” as part of a physical description is also dealt with by the OED, quite separately from the issue of esexuality:

Well, now that we have the etymology of “horny” well underway, does anybody want to address its provenance?

-Who last owned the word?
-How many previous owners can be verified?
-Can it be authenticated as a genuine word and not a forgery, copy or fake?

:smiley:

Okay, Doug, you caught me out! :stuck_out_tongue: I used “provenance” incorrectly!

That’s what I get when I’m in a hurry. using the wrong word for “background of”.

The OED is apparently missing something, as often happens.

If you read the full link that Squink gives at Word of the Day, you’ll see:

And as happens just as often, people fail to grasp exactly what it is that the OED claims to cover.

That 1826 reference comes from a manuscript letter, which I rather suspect was never quoted in print until 1988.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Cf2TxvqkMnwC&pg=PA5&ots=nRHUbiupYw&dq="feeling+so+horny"&sig=uJp09U2_R0wJgZsdbVGpnc1Zz2o

That would never have qualified for inclusion in the 2nd edition of the OED, whether or not the compilers knew about it, because that edition was explicitly and quite reasonably intended, for that late period, only as a record of usage in print.

None of which is a problem, except to those who want to jump to the conclusion that the OED was trying to do anything more.

Actually, APB, i think that what your link best demonstrates (good detective work, by the way) is the dishonesty of that reference to Bleser’s book in the link provided by Squink and quoted by Exapno Mapcase.

By citing (Bleser, 1826), that Word of the Day article implied that a book, written by Bleser and published in 1826, contained the word “horny” in its sexual sense. What your link shows us is that the book wasn’t actually published until 1988, and contained a reference to an 1826 letter in which the term “horny” was used.

Citing sources like they have done would earn them a reprimand from any good history teacher. The citation should have read something like: Thomas Jefferson Withers to James Henry Hammond (October 31, 1826), cited in Bleser, Secret and Sacred (1988).

It’s not really Exapno Mapcase’s fault that he assumed the Bleser reference was to a work that was in print in 1826. The way the work was cited, i made the same assumption.

The claim that the OED often misses the earliest usage of a word or a meaning of a word is a simple statement of fact.

The OED is a phenomenal resource but can never be complete or completely accurate. Modern research continually provides earlier usages than the OED records. I’ve done it myself by a search of searchable newspaper archives now made available on the net.

There is a long-standing perception by many people that the OED is the, ahem, last word on first usages. It often is, but not always. That’s all I was saying. Well, I was also making the point that people around here often don’t read the links provided and so miss important information that answers other questions that arise in the course of a thread.

Now, I appreciate APB’s correction of the mistake made on the link. Threads work best when everybody checks everybody else’s work and makes corrections and adds information. Snarkiness is inevitable, and I plead guilty of it myself. (Hell, I take pride in being one of the best.) But you can wind up with egg on your face when you snark in mistake.

But the Online Etymology Dictionary, which often takes its dates from that other OED says:

It’s a game. Fun, but just a game.

And i never claimed it was. I merely offered its quotations as one set of data for the OP.

Well, i also assume that if someone links to an article, and quotes from that article, they will quote the part of the article that best answers the question under discussion.

You’re saying that you joined the Dope yesterday? :slight_smile:

Our experiences are obviously diametrically opposed.

Always, always, always, always, always, always. Always read the links. Never assume. Never, never, never, never, never.

I realise that. I just couldnt resist posting the word Able-whackets together with horny sailors

Well, that’s completely understandable.

Heh. Sometimes you can’t even assume that the poster of a link has read the text there. :slight_smile: