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From Middle English lewed, lewd, leued (unlearned, lay, lascivious), from Old English lǣwede (unlearned, ignorant, lay), of obscure origin; most likely a derivative of the past participle of lǣwan (to reveal, betray) in the sense of "exposed as being unlearned" or "easily betrayed, clueless", from Proto-Germanic *lēwijaną (to betray), from *lēwą (an opportunity, cause), from Proto-Indo-European *lēw- (to leave). Or, according to the OED, from Vulgar Latin *laigo-, from Late Latin laicus (of the people).

Cognate with Old High German gilāen, firlāen (to betray), Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐌻𐌴𐍅𐌾𐌰𐌽 (galēwjan, to give over, betray), Gothic 𐌻𐌴𐍅 (lēw, an opportunity, cause).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ljuːd/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /lud/
  • enPR: lo͞od


lewd (comparative lewder, superlative lewdest)

  1. Lascivious, sexually promiscuous, rude.
  2. (obsolete) Lay; not clerical.
    • (Can we date this quote by Sir J. Davies and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      So these great clerks their little wisdom show / To mock the lewd, as learn'd in this as they.
  3. (obsolete) Uneducated.
  4. (obsolete) Vulgar, common; typical of the lower orders.
    • But the Jews, which believed not, [] took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, [] and assaulted the house of Jason.
    • (Can we date this quote by Southey and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      Too lewd to work, and ready for any kind of mischief.
  5. (obsolete) Base, vile, reprehensible.

Derived terms[edit]



lewd (third-person singular simple present lewds, present participle lewding, simple past and past participle lewded)

  1. To get high on quaalude.
    • 1968, Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test:
      Babbs, after many days of glumming in his Purina Chow redoubt, strolls over, lewding out, “Hi, Je-e-e-ed!” to Kesey's three-year-old son.
    • 1973, Yardbird Reader - Volumes 1-3, page 186:
      I was just lewding around, fucking furiously, drinking and doping and daring the devil.
    • 1996, Exquisite Corpse - Issues 56-61, page 54:
      Once lewded-out. I sampled the bourbon, then somebody suggested I take five more hits.
  2. To express lust; to behave in a lewd manner.
    • 2011, Cooper, The Queen's Assassin, page 189:
      "Well then,” dropping her bathrobe, lewding her lips, “how 'bout some lovee?”
    • 2016, George Saoulidis, The Girl Who Twisted Fate's Arm:
      Now, the men could just have been watching the unusual APC running on the road, or just lewding at the women.
    • 2019, Aldious Waite, Grape Juice Enlightenment: Immortal Mind, page 14:
      Each one lusting and lewding themselves - fighting against the spirit of change.



Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of lewed