AskDefine | Define cuckoldry

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the state of being a cuckold

Extensive Definition

A cuckold is a married man whose wife has sex with other men. In current usage it sometimes refers to non-married couples in committed relationships as well, although the traditional meaning is a man whose wife is adulterous.

History of the term

"Cuckold" is derived from the Old French for the Cuckoo bird, "Cocu" with the pejorative suffix -ald. The earliest written use of the Middle English derivation, “cokewold” occurs in 1250. The females of certain varieties of Cuckoo lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, freeing themselves from the need to nurture the eggs to hatching. In medieval Europe, the law, custom, and the church all defined married women as a category of property held by their husbands. Although Christian marriage vows strictly enjoined sexual exclusivity in a marriage for both partners, custom rarely enforced it on the husband (although Catholic doctrine held infidelity by either party to be a mortal sin).
A nuance of the word often overlooked in contemporary usage is that it refers to a man who, like the bird warming the cuckoo’s eggs, is unaware of his victimization. A man who knows and acquiesced, in his wife’s taking of another lover was called a "wittol," itself a derivation from the Middle English for "willing (as in knowing) cuckold."
Cuckolds have sometimes been written as "wearing the horns of a cuckold" or just "wearing the horns." This refers to the fact that the man being cuckolded is the last to know of his wife's infidelity. He is wearing horns that can be seen by everybody but him. This also refers to a tradition claiming that in villages of unknown European location, the community would gather to collectively humiliate a man whose wife gives birth to a child recognizably not his own. According to this legend, a parade was held in which the hapless husband is forced to wear antlers on his head as a symbol of his wife’s infidelity. Whether this did actually happen or not is irrelevant to the phrase, which survived.
The French equivalent of "wearing horns" is "porter des cornes" and is used by Molière to describe someone whose husband has been unfaithful. Molière's L'École des femmes (1662) is the story of a man who mocks cuckolds and becomes one at the end. In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c.1372-77), the Miller's Tale is a story that humorously examines the life of a cuckold.

Cultural usage

In Australia, Brazil, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Croatia, Slovenia, Spanish speaking countries and also Arabic speaking countries, "horns" are a metaphor for suffering the infidelity of a partner, not limited to husbands in modern usage. However, the use of the term dates from the Roman empire, since legionaries returning from the war were given horns as a triumph or prize. So, the use of the term is a mockery of the husband, victorious in the battlefield, but defeated in his own bed. The gesture of the horned hand can be used to insult the cuckold.
The Italian equivalent is cornuto, sharing the same exact double entendre with cornuted, asserting both featuring horns and cuckolded. Its use is playful and lightheartedly derisive, with little or no particular efficacy in scorning someone during confrontations as it is lacking earnest damning credentials, potentially leading all parties to a chuckle and smothering the feud at its inception. A pervasive metaphor parodies the use of cornuto to great effect: Il bue che dà del cornuto all'asino, meaning The ox labelling the donkey cornute, equivalent to Pot calling the kettle black.
In Portuguese the terms corno ("horn"), cornudo or chifrudo ("horned") are used to spite or mock the cheated male partner. The expression corno manso ("tame horned") is used to indicate those men who, although cheated by their partners, come to accept it as a fact of their lives.
The Spanish word for a consenting cuckold, cabrón, has such an offensive nuance that it is a taboo word rarely used with its original meaning, "he-goat". However, according to the tone and the relation to the addressed, it can be even laudatory.
The Chinese term for "cuckold" is literally translated to "wearing a green hat" (戴綠帽, dài lǜ mào). It is because of this that it is extremely rare to see any Chinese man wearing a green hat.
In Trinidad & Tobago the term "horn" is used in conjunction with cuckolds, or anyone of either sex who has a cheating spouse. Other uses include "to horn" (to sleep with someone else's spouse), "horning" (the act of cheating on your spouse), "horner-man" (a man who is sleeping with someone else's spouse) and "horner-woman" (a woman who is sleeping with someone else's spouse), "to get horn", "to take (a) horn". It is usually used in a pejorative sense. Numerous calypsoes have been written about the topic; the most famous being "Horn Me Sandra" by the calypsonian known as Lord Kitchener.
Interestingly this horn analogy extends even to Turkey where the cuckolded husband is termed boynuzlu or the "horned one".

Cuckoldry as a fetish

Cuckoldry as a fetish has been around since at least the time of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (the writer after whom the term Masochism is coined). Sacher-Masoch's wife, Aurora Rümelin, recounts in her memoirs multiple instances of Sacher-Masoch asking, begging and even threatening her to make her cuckold him so he could experience the pain and humiliation of the act. To that end, Sacher-Masoch created multiple opportunities for the adulterous act to occur, none of which were successful. While Rümelin indulged her husband in many of his masochistic requests, due in large part because of her dependence on him to financially support her and her children, she steadfastly refused to cuckold him. Rümelin's refusal to succumb to Sacher-Masoch's cuckolding fantasies was one of the causes of their separation and her subsequent descent into poverty.
The term has acquired additional meanings within certain sub-cultures, referring to couples wherein the female is dominant and she takes on additional partners, while the male takes on a submissive role where he is monogamous to her, or only becoming involved sexually when it is felt to be emotionally supportive of her and her lover, or remaining altogether chaste.
The wife who enjoys cuckoldry is sometimes referred to as a hotwife. In a broader context, the contrast between a cuckold and the additional male participant is sometimes used to summarize an individual's personality or behavior and the variability commonly seen in male libidos; the cuckold or beta male suggesting a lack of virility or smaller phallus and the additional male participant or alpha male representing virility, potency, a larger phallus, fertility, masculinity, strength and a sense of confidence in the ease with which he may sexually possess another man's wife.
Cuckolding among female-dominant couples differs from the original definition of cuckolding in that many of these men are willing to be cuckolded by their wives, sometimes as part of the their sexual fantasy and sometimes because they gain genuine sexual arousal through being humiliated by his wife being better sexually fulfilled with a potentially superior male. In some cases the husband may instigate and nurture his wife's sexual infidelity, raising the question of who is truly in control. This is a common theme in letters to erotica magazines and online sites which focus on cuckoldry.
In most modern cases of cuckolding, the husband usually finds pleasure through that of his wife and they (the wife and extramarital participant) may both enjoy attempting to actively include him in the act of cuckolding as much as possible through serving her. Some common themes include praising her appearance, attempting to stimulate her sexually at the same time as the additional participant, and generally being engrossed in her enjoyment.
Some additional variations might include grooming his wife for her date, or cleaning up the house while the wife is on her date. Also, the husband may prepare the wife's sexual partner by performing oral sex on him, as to show further humiliation and/or where his place is in the arrangement.
It may be the case that husband will encourage his wife to be impregnated by another man. Another man breeding his wife and for the wife to accept the semen of another stranger without the use of birth control is a variation of the cuckolding.

Popularity of cuckolding

Cuckolding has grown in recent years to quite a large subculture with many websites and message boards on the subject.

Cuckolding as a dominant voyeuristic act

While the word origin and most historic accounts define the cuckold husband as being submissive, powerless and/or in need of humiliation to receive stimulation, contemporary practice suggests the possibility of something altogether different. Rather than passively acceding to the infidelity and desires of an errant wife, this cuckold is more in keeping with the male partners defined in polyamorous, open, or swinging relationships.
In this manifestation, the cuckold is a consummate voyeur who derives great pleasure from seeing his "hot wife" or partner being pleasured and serviced by another male(s). Although he assumes a submissive role and will often assist during the course of the sex act, the "cuckold husband" may actually be the controlling, dominant party in the relationship. He may invite, encourage, and initiate consideration of the practice with his partner, and may be the one to make arrangements and approve how, when and with whom his wife may have the intended encounter.
Often, the excitement of the encounter with third parties is followed by more sex play between the relationship partners. The encounter becomes an aphrodisiac, helping to initiate and enhance further sex play between them, as visions of the encounter are revisited and replayed during subsequent love making sessions. It is quite common among swinger couples. Many start out in the swinging lifestyle and branch out into the cuckold lifestyle. As they find that the male partner much prefers to share his mate with others rather than have intercourse with other females.


The term "cuckold" is exclusively used for a male whose wife takes other partners; a woman whose husband strays in such fashion is known as a cuckquean. There are cases of women who enjoy being cuckqueaned, although they are probably less common than male cuckoldry.


cuckoldry in Danish: Hanrej
cuckoldry in German: Hahnrei
cuckoldry in Finnish: Aisankannattaja
cuckoldry in French: Cuckolding
cuckoldry in Italian: Cuckold
cuckoldry in Dutch: Cuckolding
cuckoldry in Japanese: 寝取られ

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adulterous affair, adultery, affair, amour, concubinage, criminal conversation, entanglement, eternal triangle, extracurricular sex, extramarital relations, flirtation, forbidden love, fornication, free love, free-lovism, hanky-panky, illicit love, incest, infidelity, intrigue, liaison, love affair, premarital relations, premarital sex, romance, romantic tie, triangle, unfaithfulness
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