Lexicographer and slang expert Jonathon Green has produced a series of timelines based on his comprehensive historical dictionary of slang, Green’s Dictionary of Slang. And, of course, that includes timelines for vagina and penis slang. (If you don’t see any words on the timelines, zoom out using the bar on the right.) They show that metaphors based on weapons and food have always been popular and that vulgarity is nothing new. There is a great deal of human creativity on display in this domain, especially when it comes to the most polite terms. Here are 35 of the classiest-sounding slang terms for vagina and penis from the past 600-plus years.

Vagina

  1. Belle-chose (1386)
  2. Altar of Venus (1584)
  3. Netherlands (1591)
  4. Placket-lace (1593)
  5. Phoenix nest (1618)
  6. Nature’s treasury (1635)
  7. Contrapunctum (1653)
  8. Privy-counsel (1664)
  9. Aphrodisiacal tennis court (1665)
  10. Lady’s low toupee (1721)
  11. Mount Pleasant (1748)
  12. Petticoat lane (1790)
  13. Venerable monosyllable (1796)
  14. Fancy article (1822)
  15. Mrs. Fubbs’s parlor (1823)
  16. Antipodes (1832)
  17. Thatched cottage (1835)
  18. Cyprian fountain (1846)
  19. Road to a christening (1903)

Penis

  1. Maypole (1621)
  2. Pioneer of nature (1653)
  3. Master John Goodfellow (1653)
  4. Generating tool (1653)
  5. Evesdropper (1653)
  6. Cyprian scepter (1653)
  7. Don Cypriano (1653)
  8. Matrimonial peacemaker (1708)
  9. Gentleman usher (1719)
  10. Rule of three (1720)—this refers to the whole genital area
  11. Silent flute (1720)
  12. Arbor vitae (1732)
  13. Impudence (1783)
  14. Staff of life (1836)
  15. Mr. Peaslin (1883)
  16. Credentials (1895)

A version of this article originally ran in 2013; it has been updated for 2021.