Carnal Knowledge


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Carnal Knowledge'?

Euphemism for sexual intercourse.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Carnal Knowledge'?

In 1532 Thomas More published a long treatise in which he laid out what he believed the English Church should be – The Confutacyon of Tyndales Answere. This contains the first known recorded use of ‘carnal knowledge’:

Yf they were clene from any late commyxcyon and carnall knowledge of theyr wyuys.

[If they were clean from any late commixion and carnal knowledge of their wives.]

In keeping with ‘carnal knowledge; being an example of a euphemism, the word ‘commixion’, which is hardly ever now used, also means ‘sexual intercourse’.

Trend of carnal knowledge in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.