from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Masturbation.
  • noun Coitus interruptus.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Gratification of the sexual appetite in an unnatural way.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Self-pollution; masturbation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun ejaculating outside the vagina during intercourse; (the performing of) coitus interruptus
  • noun masturbation

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun manual stimulation of the genital organs (of yourself or another) for sexual pleasure
  • noun a method of birth control in which coitus is initiated but the penis is deliberately withdrawn before ejaculation


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[After Onan, son of Judah (Genesis 38:9).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the biblical name Onan: In the Book of Genesis, Onan, son of Judah, in fulfillment of the laws of levirate marriage was to impregnate his brother Er's widow, Tamar, in order to raise offspring from the union in his brother's name. In order to avoid raising descendants for his late brother, however, Onan spilled his semen on the ground when he went in to his brother's wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. (Genesis 38:9). Thus the word Onanism was coined, meaning ejaculating outside the vagina, or masturbation (because this also spills semen, rather than using it for procreation).


  • So, the word onanism now is used commonly to mean masturbation the Japanese have borrowed the word as well in onaru.

    Life of Brian:

  • So, the word onanism now is used commonly to mean masturbation the Japanese have borrowed the word as well in onaru.


  • From him the extreme sexual perversion called onanism has its name.

    Exposition of Genesis: Volume 1

  • It also may be postulated that if wasting of seed is the real reason for prohibitions against homosex, then the Bible would have also explicitly addressed spilling of semen by self sexual stimulation, often called onanism by Orthodox Judaism, relating it to the Divine execution of Onan (Gn. 38: 4-10) for coitus interruptus.

    Conservapedia - Recent changes [en]

  • But marketing alone cannot explain why "onanism" and related terms began to show up in the great eighteenth-century encyclopedias or why one of the most influential physicians in France, the celebrated Samuel Auguste David Tissot, took up the idea of masturbation as a dangerous illness or why Tissot's 1760 work, L'Onanisme, became an instant European literary sensation.

    Me, Myself, and I

  • Tissot included only manual self-abuse under the term "onanism;" shortly afterward, Voltaire, in his _Dictionnaire Philosophique_, took up the subject, giving it a wider meaning and still further popularizing it.

    Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 1 The Evolution of Modesty; The Phenomena of Sexual Periodicity; Auto-Erotism

  • Pope Pius XI condemned this so-called sin of "onanism" because he misunderstood the biblical story.

    Planet Atheism

  • Against such condemnatory terms as "mutual masturbation," "onanism," and "sodomy," men in the nineteenth century struggled for a new, affirmative language of sexual love.


  • Against such condemnatory terms as "mutual masturbation," "onanism," and "sodomy," men in the nineteenth century struggled for a new, affirmative language of sexual love.


  • "Indeed, these desks which are open in front also facilitate surveillance of the scholars from the moral point of view; because, always seated, placed side by side without any possibility of spiritual communion, their heads dazed by the continuous vociferation of the teacher, these children very often contract vicious habits, such as onanism, which originate in the school itself.

    Spontaneous Activity in Education


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  • coitus interruptus: And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

    July 20, 2008

  • What Onan did was actually worse than coitus interruptus. Tamar had originally married Onan's brother, but the brother died before they produced an heir to carry the bother's name. Onan was supposed to marry Tamar (a Levirate marriage), give her a male child to carry on the deceased husband's name, and then divorce her. Tamar was a very attractive woman, so Onan was all too happy to enter the Levirate marriage, but he refused to give her a child because he wanted to keep having sex with her. Essentially he used her.

    The reason onanism has come to mean "spilling seed" is that early medieval Jewish commentators, in enumerating the 613 commandments, did not want to remind their less-than-friendly Christian neighbors of the ancient, but no longer practiced institution of Levirate marriage, so they interpreted the passage to be a commandment against masturbation and coitus interruptus. Around this same time Jews discontinued the practice of polygamy.

    July 20, 2008

  • Why is coitus interruptus bad that something can be worse than it?

    July 20, 2008

  • Huh? I don't understand your question.

    July 20, 2008

  • I think he means that by saying something is worse than coitus interruptus, you're implying that coitus interruptus is bad to begin with. So why is it bad?

    That's how I understood it, anyway.

    July 20, 2008

  • Ah, I see. I wasn't implying that coitus interruptus is bad. I was more explaining why it isn't.

    (Halakhically the Sin of Onan is still considered to be the spilling of seed though, AFAIK. The history I outlined could perhaps be used by a Rabbi to rule otherwise, but that is relatively unlikely to happen any time soon.)

    July 20, 2008

  • Yes. Sorry, I try not to waste my enire life here. So I put in my two penn'orth then go away and do something else. Then come back to see wassup.

    As plethora correctly interpreted, you had written a statement of the form 'a was worse than b', implying that b was bad. I asked how b was bad.

    July 20, 2008

  • Shevek, that's a very interesting post. I knew that onanism originally meant something different than what is usually meant today, but not the whole backstory. Fascinating. Thanks for posting it.

    July 21, 2008