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From Middle English harlot, from Old French harlot, herlot, arlot (vagabond; tramp), of obscure origin. Likely to be ultimately of Germanic origin, either from a derivation of *harjaz (army; camp; warrior; military leader) or from a diminutive of *karilaz (man; fellow). Compare English carlot.



harlot (plural harlots)

  1. (derogatory, offensive, dated) A female prostitute.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:prostitute
    • c. 1594 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Comedie of Errors”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene i], page 98, lines 204-205:
      This day (great Duke) ſhe ſhut the doores vpon me, / While she with Harlots feaſted in my housſe.
    • 1890, William Booth, chapter 6, in In Darkest England and the Way Out[1]:
      The bastard of a harlot, born in a brothel, suckled on gin, and familiar from earliest infancy with all the bestialities of debauch, []
    • 1908, William Blake, To the Accuser Who Is the God of This World:
      Truly, My Satan, thou art but a Dunce, / And dost not know the Garment from the Man. / Every Harlot was a Virgin once, / Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan.
    • 1915, W[illiam] Somerset Maugham, chapter LXXVII, in Of Human Bondage, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, →OCLC:
      He was stopped by a painted harlot, who put her hand on his arm; he pushed her violently away with brutal words.
    • 1918, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Hail! Childish Slaves Of Social Rules”, in New Poems and Variant Readings[2], London: Chatto & Windus:
      O fine religious, decent folk, / In Virtue’s flaunting gold and scarlet, / I sneer between two puffs of smoke,— / Give me the publican and harlot.
    • 1980, Dave Murray (lyrics and music), “Charlotte the Harlot”, in Iron Maiden, performed by Iron Maiden:
      Charlotte the Harlot show me your legs, / Charlotte the Harlot take me to bed. / Charlotte the Harlot let me see blood, / Charlotte the Harlot let me see love.
  2. (derogatory, offensive) A female who is considered promiscuous.
    Synonyms: skeezer, slut, whore; see also Thesaurus:promiscuous woman
  3. (obsolete) A churl; a common man; a person, male or female, of low birth, especially one given to low conduct.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:villain
    • 1544, R. Tracy, Supplycacion to Kynge Henry VIII:
      By suche ydle and wicked harlottes the enheritaunce of Christe is troden vnder fote.
    • a. 1653, “Joseph Tempted to Adultery”, in Zion's Flowers, published 1855, page 103:
      When lust doth rage it like a canker frets;
      It topsie turvie, upside downe all sets; []
      Where once it reigneth, there it maketh sure,
      A man a harlot, and a wife a whoore;
    • 1659, Daniel Pell, Pelagos [] Or, An improvement of the sea [] , page 37:
      [Take into your service] none but such as deny all ungod∣liness, and worldly lusts, and live soberly, chastely, and moderately in the Seas, and whose speech is not stinking, and unclean, as most Sea-mens are. What should you do with such Harlots in your service? which calls for holiness, and better principled men.

Derived terms[edit]



harlot (third-person singular simple present harlots, present participle harloting or harlotting, simple past and past participle harloted or harlotted)

  1. To play the harlot; to practice lewdness.
    Synonyms: harlotize; see also Thesaurus:harlotize


harlot (comparative more harlot, superlative most harlot)

  1. (now uncommon) Wanton; lewd; low; base.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:obscene
    • 1943, Nick Joaquin, “It was Later than we Thought”, in Philippine Review:
      The intellection in it, kiddo—the intellection.... That most harlot of harlots... talking of me, laughing at me... I'll kill her....


Middle English[edit]



  1. a churl; a common man; a person, male or female, of low birth
  2. a person given to low conduct; a rogue; a cheat; a rascal