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Alternative forms[edit]



1590s, from Middle French desbaucher (entice from work or duty), from Old French desbauchier (to lead astray), from des- + bauch (beam), from Frankish *balko,[1] from Proto-Germanic *balkô, from Proto-Indo-European *bhelg- (beam, plank); latter origin of balk.

Evolution of sense unclear; may be literally “to shave/trim wood to make a beam” or may be “to leave/lure someone from a workshop”, Frankish *balko perhaps also meaning “workshop”.

Possible corruption by way of Anglicised French term bord (edge, kerb): kerb crawling as a synonym for prostitution. Parallels in modern German: Bordsteinschwalbe (prostitute, literally Kerb-stone-swallow or kerb-bird). English words bawd, bawdiness may be similarly connected.



debauch (plural debauches)

  1. An individual act of debauchery.
    • 1902, Thomas Ebenezer Webb, The Mystery of William Shakespeare: A Summary of Evidence, page 242:
      Greene died of a debauch; and Marlowe, the gracer of tragedians, perished in an ignominious brawl.
    • 1913, Sax Rohmer, chapter 25, in The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu:
      [T]he room probably was one which he actually used for opium debauches.
  2. An orgy.
    • 1934 George Orwell, Burmese Days:
      "The flowers, oppressive to the eyes, blazed with not a petal stirring, in a debauch of sun."
    • 1955, Joseph Heller, chapter 13, in Catch-22:
      [T]here were always the gay and silly sensual young girls that Yossarian had found and brought there and those that the sleepy enlisted men returning to Pianosa after their own exhausting seven-day debauch had brought there.



debauch (third-person singular simple present debauches, present participle debauching, simple past and past participle debauched)

  1. (transitive) To morally corrupt (someone); to seduce.
    • 1727, Daniel Defoe, chapter 9, in The History of the Devil:
      But the Devil had met with too much Success in his first Attempts, not to go on with his general Resolution of debauching the Minds of Men, and bringing them off from God.
  2. (transitive) To debase (something); to lower the value of (something).
  3. (intransitive) To indulge in revelry.


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  1. ^ debauch” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.