The Condom Thesaurus

Condoms, johnnies, rubbers…why do we call what we call ‘condoms’?

BY THE ROAM TEAM 6 MIN READ

WORDS TO KNOW
Eco-friendly condoms

Eco-friendly condoms are condoms which are good for people and the planet. This includes using natural rubber latex, being vegan and cruelty-free, not using chemicals and using less plastic, such as Roam's condoms, whose foils contain 40% less plastic than other condoms.

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Condoms, one of the most popular forms of contraception, are used globally throughout the world. They have a long and varied history, which has led to many strange and whacky monikers and euphemisms for the word ‘condom’. Keep reading to find out more. 

Where does the word 'condom' come from?

The first documented use of the word ‘condon’, spelt differently to how it is now, was seen in 1666 in the English Birth Rate Commission, when these ‘penis coverings’ attributed to a new low in the fertility rate. The actual etymology of our modern use of the word ‘condom’ is surprisingly hard to pin down.

However, it is probably due to the shame and vulgarity associated with the word’s use (it was also omitted from the Oxford English Dictionary till 1890 and wasn’t openly used in mass media until 1986) that led to its vague origins. Theories include that it originates from the Italian word ‘guanto’, meaning glove, or from the Latin words ‘cum’ and ‘dom’, meaning ‘with’ and ‘house’, referencing how the condom covers the penis. 

Synonyms for condoms

Because the word ‘condom’ was frowned upon, synonyms and euphemisms became second-place and are still used to this day. A particularly popular one, ‘rubber’, is used widely across the US, and stems from the original use of rubber condoms, first invented in 1855. The term ‘johnnies’ dates back to the 17th century, when people began calling condoms after John Milles, who sold condoms from his apothecary shop in London. One of the first people to sell condoms commercially, John became forever a namesake for the product itself.

Clothing and condoms

Euphemisms for condoms extend past who sold them first and what they’re made out of, to their function itself. In Nigeria, the slang word ‘okpuamu’ or ‘penis hat’ refers to the earliest use of condoms, which originally only covered the head (or glans) of the penis, meaning it did indeed resemble a sort of funny hat. In Hong Kong, meanwhile, ‘pei dang vi’ refers to condoms and their protective ability, meaning ‘bullet-proof vest’. The French, however, took a cheeky stab at national tensions with their use of the phrase ‘La capote anglaise,’ or ‘English cap’. In the mid-17th century, with syphillis cases rising, the French took to calling the condom this amusing moniker as a dig at the spread of syphillis throughout the UK.

A condom by any other name

Interestingly, South Korea had big plans to change the word for condoms, in order to try and encourage more people to use them. However, the new suggested word ‘ae-pil’ received a backlash of complaints from many South Koreans, who said it was too similar to their name or that of a loved one. Yikes. Made out of the Chinese words for ‘love’ and ‘necessity’, ‘ae-pil’ was officially dumped in 2004. In Portugal, it’s all about love and no necessity when it comes to condoms. Called ‘camisas de Venus’, what Portuguese people call this contraceptive measure is a cute reference to the god of Love. Well, if you’re gonna cover up the so-called ‘love stick’, this is the word to use, alright.

Whatever you call what are known as 'condoms', there's no getting round the fact that they should be accessible to everyone. That's why we've included braille on our boxes! No matter what name you use for a condom, make sure that you're using ones that are sustainable and good for the planet, and the people!

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