31 of the Best Synonyms and Antonyms for ‘Lustful’

 

By Dr Oliver Tearle

There are plenty of words to describe sex, from bawdy slang to more technical terms, but how many ways are there to describe lust? Below, we introduce some of the most widely used and best synonyms to describe someone who is filled with lust.

 

Synonyms for ‘lustful’

One of the commonest synonyms for lustful is LASCIVIOUS, which has been around in English since at least the early fifteenth century, when the prolific poet John Lydgate used it. It’s from a Latin word referring to lust. Richard III uses it in his famous opening monologue to Shakespeare’s history play of that name, to describe the king, Edward IV, Richard’s brother:

He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber,
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

LECHEROUS has a similar meaning. It’s from an Old French word ultimately from the same Germanic word that gives us the verb lick, and is the first synonym on this list to be gendered: lecherous is usually used to describe a man immoderately given to sexual indulgence.

LIBIDINOUS is also from a Latin word referring to lust: libido, a word we also use in English to refer to one’s sexual drive. So, to be libidinous is to be governed by one’s lust.

Meanwhile, a LICENTIOUS person is one who gives themselves too much licence or freedom, i.e., someone who disregards the rules or conventions. As with ‘wanton’ below, the word has been used in a broader sense than the merely sexual, but this has become the prevailing sense of the word, as the OED notes. DEBAUCHED conveys the same thing.

HORNY has been in use since the Middle Ages to refer to something that actually possesses horns, but it was in the late nineteenth century that the term was first applied to sexual lust or excitement. Another slang term, RANDY, is of a decidedly older vintage: although it originally referred to someone loud-mouthed or coarse, it became a synonym for ‘lustful’ in the eighteenth century, and was especially common in Scotland.

As a synonym for lust or sexual attraction to someone, HOT is of a surprisingly early vintage: it’s found in medieval writings as well as Shakespeare’s Othello, from the early seventeenth century (‘Were they as prime as Goates, as hot as Monkies’). HOT-BLOODED is another way of conveying the same thing: the intensity of someone’s sexual desires and passions.

A phrase which is usually reserved for females (not just humans) is IN HEAT, referring to sexual excitement during the breeding season. So if you wished to be a bit more creative, you could draw upon this expression from the world of nature …

CARNAL is a term derived from the Latin for ‘flesh’, and used to refer to sexual appetites, so somebody who is lustful might be described as ‘carnal’ or driven by ‘carnal cravings’ or ‘carnal desire’.

Another rather bodily word is SENSUAL, which pertains to someone who enjoys stimulating the senses, but is perhaps most often used to designate physical (especially sexual) pleasure.

VOLUPTUOUS is an adjective that also relates to the gratification of the senses, and indulgence in sensual pleasures, derived from the Latin for ‘pleasure’. So for much of its long history (since the Middle Ages), voluptuous referred to a person’s pursuit of sensual pleasure, rather than a person who inspires such pleasure; and yet this later meaning (attested from the mid-nineteenth century) is probably the more common one now, as when a woman’s form is described as voluptuous.

Many of these synonyms for ‘lustful’ are words which can be applied more widely to pleasure, and to an inability to control one’s desires (not just sexual desires). INTEMPERATE is another such example, denoting somebody who is without temperance in something, e.g., food, drink, or sexual indulgence. In other words, an intemperate person can be someone who indulges, or gives into, their desires.

SALACIOUS, derived from the Latin for ‘leap’, has meant ‘lustful’ or ‘lecherous’ since the seventeenth century, although it can also describe something which provokes lust (e.g., salacious literature).

CONCUPISCENT, from a Latin word meaning ‘long for’ or ‘desire’, has been around since the Middle Ages, but remains a rare synonym for ‘lustful’ or ‘desirous’. The American modernist poet Wallace Stevens used it to memorable effect in his poem ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream’, in which the ‘roller of big cigars’ is enigmatically called upon to whip ‘concupiscent curds’.

Attested since the late sixteenth century, PRURIENT is used to refer to excessive, or inappropriate, desire, especially of a sexual kind. Curiously, the word comes from a Latin word meaning ‘itch’, but is ultimately thought to go back to the same Indo-European root word which also gave us freeze.

Since the eighteenth century, the word PRIAPIC has been used as a specialised synonym for ‘lustful’: the word is derived from the Graeco-Roman god of procreation and fertility, who is normally depicted with an enormous phallus. Given these origins, the word is often applied to men, as is GOATISH, which alludes to the goat’s perceived high sex drive.

RAKISH is another term used of lascivious or lustful men, from the word rake, a stylish man of dissolute or lascivious habits; the word rake is a shortening of rakehell, as in ‘to rake hell’ (as with the garden implement).

WANTON is a term that’s fallen out of use somewhat, though it’s found regularly in earlier literature, such as Shakespeare’s plays. It was used to describe anyone whose behaviour was reckless or careless and didn’t always relate to lust, but it has meant ‘lustful’ or ‘promiscuous’ since the fifteenth century. Wanton is from an Old English prefix wan-, which is equivalent to the modern prefix mis- denoting something that is wrong, and a word meaning ‘drag’ (related to our modern word tow, as in towing a caravan). The implication is that a wanton person leads others astray.

LOOSE is another term used of women rather than men, and denoting promiscuity, as in the phrase ‘a loose woman’.

SEXED UP is a more modern term, dating from the 1930s, and referring to someone who is lustful or aroused.

 

Antonyms for ‘lustful’

As you can see, there are quite a few synonyms for the word ‘lustful’, of various vintages. But what about antonyms?

If you want to describe someone who is not lustful but the opposite, you could try PRUDISH, one of a group of related words which convey excessive modesty in relation to sexual matters. Others of a similar meaning, imply too much observance of propriety when it comes to sex and lust, include PRIM, DEMURE, and PRIGGISH.

More neutral terms include CHASTE and PURE, used for people (and historically, especially women) who resist their sexual urges and control their lusts and appetites. More recently, the term ASEXUAL has become more popular, to describe people who don’t even feel lust, in the main; the term has been in use since the nineteenth century, while ACE, taken from the first syllable of asexual, is much more recent, first being recorded online in 2008. Perhaps this pair of terms constitutes the true antonym of lustful.

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