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From Middle English harlot, from Old French harlot, herlot, arlot (vagabond; tramp), of obscure origin. Likely 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
  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