Not all of us attended a progressive school that felt knowing our genitals was a logical part of learning about the human body. While we can figure out how these aspects of ourselves work with some experimentation, there are some things the school of hard knocks isn’t so ready to impart. To this end, here’s your guide to the proper names of our genderbits and, perhaps most importantly, their plurals.
“Most terms do have archaic plural that is sometimes used,” says Michael Habib, assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Southern California. “But today, almost all of them are, by modern convention, pluralized in the simple English manner (by adding an s or es). The exception is ‘testis,’ for which the plural is ‘testes’ and remains so even in modern usage.”
Some of the more common ones are listed below.
Vagina: is the internal part of the female genitals (the external portion is called the vulva). The word “vagina” comes from Latin and quite literally translates as “sheath” or “scabbard”. The correct (if archaic) plural, if you want to stick to Latin, is “vaginae.” However, pluralizing to “vaginas” is acceptable.
Vulva: is the external part of the female genitals (this is the part that receives the Brazilian or endures other forms of hair removal and grooming). It comes from Latin as well and the correct (if archaic) plural is “vulvae.” Pluralizing to “vulvas” is acceptable.
Clitoris: is a very sensitive, erectile organ found near the inner lips of the vulva. The word is Latin, but, just as an FYI, comes from the Greek kleitoris. The correct (if archaic) plural is “clitorides.” Pluralizing it to “clitorises” is acceptable.
Anus: is the final stop of the alimentary canal. It comes from the Latin word for ring. The correct (if archaic and simply no longer used) would be “ani.” Pluralizing “anus” to “anuses” is the norm.
Penis: is the male sex organ. It comes from Latin, meaning “tail.” The proper (if archaic) plural is “penes.” It is acceptable to pluralize it as “penises.”
Scrotum: is the sack of skin and muscle in males that contains the testicles. The correct (if archaic) plural is “scrota.” It is, however, acceptable to pluralize it to “scrotums.”
Testis: is the singular of “testes,” the testicle. It comes from Latin, and the plural is conventionally used, so commonly known.
Header image by Mary Margret.