Definition of sex in English:

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Pronunciation: /sɛks/


1 [mass noun] (Chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse: he enjoyed talking about sex she didn’t want to have sex with him
More example sentences
  • These early ideas have had a powerful influence on our views of sex and sexuality.
  • She did not wish to have sex with him and did not consent to sexual intercourse.
  • He may be getting turned on watching them, but it's you he wants to have sex with.
informal nooky
British informal bonking, rumpy pumpy, a bit of the other, how's your father
South African informal pata-pata
vulgar slang screwing, fucking
British vulgar slang shagging
formal coitus, coition, copulation
archaic fornication, carnal knowledge, congress, commerce
have sexual intercourse (with), make love (to), sleep with/together, go to bed with/together;
mate (with);
seduce, rape, ravish
informal do it, do the business, go all the way, make whoopee, have one's way with, bed, know in the biblical sense, tumble
British informal bonk, get one's oats
North American informal boff, get it on (with)
euphemistic be intimate (with)
vulgar slang fuck, screw, bang, lay, get one's leg over, shaft, dick, frig, do, have, hump, poke, shtup, dip one's wick, ride, service, tup
British vulgar slang have it away (with), have it off (with), shag, knob, get one's end away, knock someone off, give someone one, roger, grind, stuff
Scottish vulgar slang podger
North American vulgar slang ball, jump, jump someone's bones, bone, pork, diddle, nail
Australian/New Zealand vulgar slang root
formal copulate (with)
archaic fornicate (with), possess, lie with/together, couple (with), swive, know
1.1 [in singular] euphemistic A person’s genitals.
2Either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions: adults of both sexes
More example sentences
  • While there are only two sexes - male and female - there can be an unlimited number of genders.
  • The male and female sexes grew out of this advantage over the subsequent millions of years of evolution.
  • The two great sexes of male and female, says Milton, animate the world.
2.1 [mass noun] The fact of belonging to either the male or female sex: direct discrimination involves treating someone less favourably on the grounds of their sex
More example sentences
  • Kelly Holmes has been out of the army for six years now but still she bemoans the fact that her sex precluded her from getting into the boxing ring and pummelling a few people.
  • Despite some close friends, no one knew her true sex, and that fact was what had saved her from her mother's fate.
  • As an educated woman, Addams was constrained by the fact of her sex, and yet eager to be effective in the world.
2.2The group of all members of either the male or female sex: she was well known for her efforts to improve the social condition of her sex
More example sentences
  • Members of both sexes are getting heavily into debt to pay for operations on credit cards or through bank loans.
  • Elsewhere on the record, Merchant plays the role of experienced woman, dispensing advice to younger members of her sex.
  • Watch them when they are talking to members of their own sex and you'll see what I mean.


[with object]
1Determine the sex of: each bird would need to be individually sexed
More example sentences
  • I think they came over because they were more adept at sexing chickens than we were.
  • Animals could be sexed 1 year from birth using our enhanced feeding protocols.
  • We collected pupae and sexed them by the morphology of the eighth abdominal segment.
2 (sex something up) informal Present something in a more interesting or lively way.
Example sentences
  • In his historical pastiche, Wells elects to take the past and sex it up a little.
  • Gilligan had a genuine scoop - but made the mistake of sexing it up a notch too far.
  • There is little attempt to sex things up for a restless modern audience or indulge in self-conscious irony.
3 (sex someone up) informal Arouse or attempt to arouse someone sexually.
Example sentences
  • I can easily sleep with him, not sex him up, but just sleep, peacefully, in the same bed.


On the difference in use between the words sex (in sense 2 above) and gender, see gender (usage).



Example sentences
  • A Japanese man has made an emotional 5,000-mile trip to Hebden Bridge to retrace his father's steps after discovering diaries detailing his time there in the 1930s as an expert chicken sexer.
  • My friend David briefly courted a Chinese chicken sexer 25 years ago, but the relationship was too fleeting for any of her talents to pass via him to me, at least not that I can remember.
  • A charming woman and a steamy sexer, her name still raises pulses in fans of erotic entertainment.


Late Middle English (denoting the two categories, male and female): from Old French sexe or Latin sexus.

  • Sex entered the language in medieval times from Latin sexus, and first referred to the two genders. Women have been the fair or the fairer sex since the middle of the 17th century, when men were sometimes called the better or the sterner sex. In reference to hanky-panky, sex has only been used since the early part of the 20th century, with D. H. Lawrence being among the first to talk of ‘having sex’. To sex up has been around as an expression since the 1940s, meaning ‘to make more sexy’. A new use hit the headlines in 2003 when a BBC journalist claimed that the British Labour government had knowingly ‘sexed up’ a report on whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. People or things have been sexy in the literal sense since the 1920s. The sense ‘very exciting or appealing’ appeared in the 1950s, and has led to some odd phrases, like this from the New York Magazine in 2003: ‘Sexy flat-panel screen, woofer, and remote control included’.

Words that rhyme with sex

annex, convex, ex, flex, hex, perplex, Rex, specs, Tex, Tex-Mex, vex

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sex

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