A Glossary of the Foreskin, Circumcision and the Movement to End It

Ar. = Arabic; Heb. = Hebrew; Gk = Greek; L. = Latin; pl. = plural
In Ar. words a capital letter means a consonant has a dot under it, a vowel has a macron over it.
LISTS: Penile Anatomy; Skinonyms, Surgical Circumcision; Other Surgery; Ritual Circumcision; Restoration; Intactivism Abbreviations;

PENILE ANATOMY

(Highlighted entry-words link to a single picture.)

adhesion
  1. False diagnosis of normal union between neonatal foreskin and glans as pathological. "Cured" by circumcision, as sleep in the eyes would be cured by beheading.
  2. Iatrogenic joining of the foreskin to the glans caused by misguided attempts to separate them prematurely, with tearing and joining of raw wound-tissues. Can cause phimosis

anastomosis
Cross-connection, esp. of veins in the foreskin. (Gk. ana- = back, stomos = opening, pl. anastomoses)

aposthia
Condition of naturally having no foreskin. According to tradition, Mohammed was born without a foreskin (aposthetic) and Muslims practice circumcision to be like him. (Gk a- = not, posthe = foreskin, -ia = condition)

"ballooning"
Inflation of the foreskin with urine during urination. Perfectly normal in neonates unless it causes pain. Can then be treated without surgery.

bulla
The swelling of the urethra just inside the meatus. (L. = bubble)

cingulus levis
Anatomical Latin name suggested by Ken McGrath for the zone or band of smooth mucosa on the inner foreskin. (L. = smooth zone)

cingulus rugosus
Anatomical Latin name suggested by Ken McGrath for the ridged band (L. = corrugated zone)

corona (glandis)
The flange at the base of the glans penis. (L. = crown of the acorn)

corpus cavernosum
One of the two partially hollow columns forming the sides and dorsum of the shaft of the penis, that engorge with blood in erection. (L. = cavernous body, pl. corpora cavernosa)

corpus spongiosum
The spongy body running under the corpora cavernosa along the length of the penis, surrounding the urethra, that partially engorges with blood in erection. ( L. = spongy body, pl. corpora spongiosa)

dartos
A thin layer of muscle lying directly under the skin of the penis and scrotum (it causes the scrotum to retract when cold and writhe when hot). It runs around the tip of the foreskin, forming the preputial sphincter.

distal (to)
Farther from the body. (opp. proximal)

dorsal
Of the dorsum: in the case of the penis, on the upper side when its owner is standing upright and it is horizontal. (opp. ventral)

dorsum
the back part (L. = back)

FORESKIN
Surprisingly hard to define, and the outer layer of the foreskin does not exist as an entity distinct from the shaft-skin of the penis. (For that reason it is not specifically marked in the picture.) In general though, the foreskin is the tapered cylindrical double layer of tissue extending from behind the corona distally to about the end of the glans and returning, and generally considered to end at the same distance along the penis as it began (ie, it is defined by circumcision...). From the corona to the ridged band its surface is mucosa; the rest is skin, and it is lined with part of the dartos muscle. On erection for most men it becomes a single-layered cylinder, mucosa behind the corona, skin distally, enclosing about half of the shaft.

fossa navicularis
See bulla (L., fossa = channel, navicularis = boat-shaped)

frenar band
See ridged band. (A different structure from the frenulum.)

frenular band
See ridged band. (A different structure from the frenulum.)

frenulum
The membrane attaching the foreskin to the glans and shaft of the penis (at the ventral midline, just proximal to the meatus). It is richly endowed with nerves. Often only a remnant of the frenulum is left after circumcision, if it is not also removed. Many circumcised men consider it their "G-spot" - but only because their "G-area", the ridged band, has been removed. (L. fraenulum = little bridle pl. frenula) There are also frenula under the tongue and elsewhere.

frenulum breve
Strictly, having a short frenulum, but commonly, having a short ridged band, a cause of phimosis and an impressive-sounding excuse for circumcision. (L. brevis = short)

frenum
Sometimes used for frenulum. (L. fraenum = bridle)

epispadias
A condition in which the meatus points upward rather than forward. Does not require treatment if urinary flow is not obstructed. May also be iatrogenic, if the glans is included when the foreskin is first slit with scissors.

glans (penis)
The bulbous head of the penis. (L. = acorn (of the penis), pl. glandes (pen[i]um) The same word is the root of "gland")

hypospadias
A condition in which the meatus points downward rather than forward, either as a birth variation or iatrogenic, a consequence of circumcision.

meatal stenosis
Narrowing of the meatus, one of the possible consequences of circumcision.

meatus
The opening of the urethra. (pl meatus or meatuses, may be pronounced as three syllables, me-a-tus)

meatal lips
The tiny swellings on either side of the meatus. (may be pronounced me-ay-tal) Their conformation is very different after circumcision.

meatitis
Inflammation of the meatus, one of the possible consequences of circumcision.

mega-prepuce
A very large foreskin, i.e. bigger than someone else likes, sometimes used as justification for circumcision (Gk mega = large)

Meissner's corpuscles
Nerve-endings associated with the perception of fine variations of touch (and pleasure), very numerous in the ridged band and frenulum.

microposthia
Condition of having a very small foreskin, sometimes used as a justification for circumcision on the basis that nothing much is lost, ignoring the role of the ridged band (Gk micro = small)

mucosa
Skin-like membrane lining the foreskin and covering the glans (and lining the vagina, mouth and anus). It is normally always moist.

mucous membrane
See mucosa.

necrotizing fasciitis
"Galloping gangrene", a possible consequence of circumcision.

papilla coronis
Any of the small white points of hardened mucous membrane along the corona glandis in some intact men. In circumcised men they are lost among the general keratinization. (L= little nipple of the corona, pl. papillae coronis)

(In cats and rodents they are much more pointed, shocking the females into ovulation, and related to the much sharper ones on cats' tongues.)

paraphimosis
Condition where the ridged band is trapped behind the corona. May be relieved without surgery.

penes
L. plural of penis. Penises is clear; peni and penii would be the plurals of "penus" and "penius".

penile
Of the penis.

phimosis
Inability to retract the foreskin. Normal in all neonates (because the synechia attach the foreskin to the glans), many children and some adults (if the ridged band is short).It can be treated without surgery if painful or if the urinary flow is obstructed. (Gk = muzzling)

prepuce
See foreskin. (from L. prae, in front, and putium, penis)

pr[a]eputial sphincter
The "drawstring" of the foreskin, formed of the dartos muscle.

pr[a]eputial stenosis
Narrowing of the foreskin. Replacing "phimosis" to describe inability to retract the foreskin in adulthood. May be treated (if any treatment is needed) without surgery. (L. praeputium = foreskin, Gk stenosis = narrowing)

proximal (to)
Nearer to the body. (opp. distal)

raphe
The "seam" up the underside of the penis (actually running all the way from the anus to the urinary meatus), where the urethra closed up before birth.

ridged band
A zone of corrugated tissue running from the frenulum, around the inside of the foreskin close to the preputial sphincter (and therefore is largely removed by even minimal circumcision) and back to the frenulum. It lies between the outer skin and the smooth band.It is richly endowed with nerves. Meissners corpuscles are concentrated in the peaks of the ridges.

smegma
A natural secretion of skin cells and oils that collects under the foreskin in both males and females. It may have a pungent aroma (commonly compared to cheese [males] or fish [females]), and has lubricant, pheromonal (sexual attractant) and perhaps bacteriostatic (bacteria-killing) functions.

smooth band
The area of the foreskin between the ridged band and the sulcus.

smooth mucosa
The tissue of the surface of the smooth band (but the terms smooth mucosa and smooth band are often used interchangeably).

synechia
The membrane attaching the inner (mucosal) surface of the neonatal foreskin to the glans penis. It separates naturally (helped by masturbation) before adolescence.

sulcus
The groove in the penile shaft behind the glans penis.

superficial dorsal vein
A vein running up the dorsal surface of the penis directly under the skin, more prominent in circumcised men, indicating that circumcision modifies the penile circulation.

Tysons glands
Glands supposed to exist in the corona and secrete smegma. They were found in orang outangs; they have not been confirmed in humans.

urethra
The tube running the length of the penis carrying urine and semen. (cf. the tubes from the kidneys to the bladder, the ureters)

ventral
Of the belly: in the case of the penis, on the underside when its owner is standing upright and it is horizontal. (opp. dorsal)

 

SKINONYMS - SYNONYMS FOR "FORESKIN" etc

blaengroen
Welsh, blaen = first/foremost, croen -> groen = skin

Cavalier (intact male)
UK Opp.: Roundhead

forhud
Norwegian, for = front, hud = skin

förhud (o-diaresis)
Swedish, för = front, hud = skin

(lace) curtains
Mainly US

ngovi (= foreskin, or intact man)
Swahili

prepuce
from L. prae, in front, and putium, penis

snozzle
coined by HY, May 1997, as a friendlier, less clinical alternative

vorhaut
German, vor = fore / in front, haut = skin

whistle (= intact penis)
South Africa Opp.: cherry.

 

SURGICAL CIRCUMCISION

ablate
Remove. (ablation = removal) (L., = carry away)

CIRCUMCISION
A euphemism for MGM, but generally used to mean cutting off the whole of the foreskin. (L. circumcidere = to cut around) It may leave less or more of the inner mucosa and of the frenulum, at the whim of the circumcisor, to the greater or lesser detriment of the person circumcised.

Circumstraint (tm)
Torture-board with straps to hold down a baby sensibly struggling against being circumcised.

cornification
See keratinisation. (L. cornus = horn) A useful reminder that the circumcised glans hardens like a worker's hands (but beware of the double meaning of "horny").

fistula
A tubular complication of circumcision, as when a skin bridge is open underneath. (L. = pipe, flute, pl. fistulae)

Gomco clamp (tm)
A circumcision device invented in 1934, consisting of a metal bell placed over the glans (requiring a slit in the foreskin first) and a flat metal ring over both, to define the position of the cut. They are brought together by a screw to apply circular crushing and fusing force at the position of excision. Leaves a characteristic dark line at the excision scar. (from [Aaron] GOldstein Manufacturing COmpany, later Gomco Surgical Manufacturing Co.)

iatrogenic
(Damage) caused by a doctor (or nurse or parent) eg, phimosis caused by premature attempt to retract the foreskin. (Gk. iatros = physician)

infibulation
  1. Installation of a sealed wire loop through holes in the foreskin to make erection painful in an attempt to prevent masturbation. (L. fibula = brooch)
  2. Drastic scraping and removal of female genitalia, leaving only a small hole.

keratinisation
Hardening of the mucosa of the glans after circumcision, leading to reduced sensitivity. (Gk. keras = horn)

Mogen clamp (tm?)
One of a series of circumcision instruments made by this company, including probe, probe-tipped scissors, etc. Described as "the least painful method" and "able to be used without previous experience."

necrosis
Death of tissue. (adj. necrotic)

neonate
Newborn baby. (adj. neonatal)

PlastiBell (tm)
A grooved plastic dome placed under the divided foreskin. A ligature (thread) is tied tightly around the foreskin, crushing it into the groove, causing it to become necrotic (to die) and drop off.

posthectomy
Medical Gk for circumcision (posthe = foreskin, -ectomy = cutting off)

Sheldon clamp (tm)
A circumcision device with jaws. (more details needed)

skin bridge
A complication of circumcision in which the healing excision scar fuses to the damaged mucosa of the glans, usually at the corona.

suture-hole
A complication of circumcision in which a depression is left in the skin when a stitch is removed or dissolves.

Tara KLamp (tm)
A non-reusable circumcision device made of plastic. Works by cutting off circulation to the foreskin, using a plastic ring clamped in place over a tube (to allow urination). Available in sizes up to adult, recently developed in Malaysia. (Capital, Kuala Lumpur = K.L., hence KLamp)

 

OTHER SURGERY

dorsal slit
In the foreskin, a crude form of posthioplasty to relieve phimosis. Very similar to super[in]cision.

posthioplasty
Reshaping-surgery on the foreskin (including circumcision-reversal).

Z-plasty
Form of posthioplasty (eg to correct phimosis or to taper a non-surgically restored foreskin) involving a Z-shaped incision.

 

RITUAL CIRCUMCISION

Amidsha
Yugoslav Muslim circumcisor

arel
Intact male (Heb., pl = arelim)

barzel
Slotted plate used in Brit Milah to isolate the glans from the foreskin to be removed.(Heb., = iron, knife)

brit/bris/brith
Heb., = covenant, pl., Britot

Brit Mila[h]
Jewish circumcision ceremony, performed on the eighth day after birth. (Heb., = covenant of cutting, pl. Brit Milot)

Brit Shalom
Surgery-free Jewish naming ceremony. (Heb., = covenant of peace) NB The Brit Shalom Society had nothing to do with circumcision: it was an organisation of Jewish intellectuals in the 1920s-30s promoting Jewish-Arab reconciliation.

Encoumbee
Pygmy circumcision ceremony

Es-selkh
Bedouin circumcision ceremony

Eunoto
Maasai circumcision ceremony

Feast of the Circumcision
January 1 (the eighth day after Christmas), Christian festival of Jesus' circumcision (generally used to remember his human susceptibility to wounding, and his circumcision as a precursor of his crucifixion, rather than his Judaism).

khAfiDah
Woman who excises girls' genitalia (Arabic = she who lowers the clitoris)

khAtin
Circumcisor (Ar. fem. Khatinah)

khitAn
Circumcision (classical Ar.)

khitoum (khitOn?)
Islamic ritual circumcisors (from khitAn) The name is used in parts of Egypt, throughout the Levant, Iraq, the Arab Peninsula and the Gulf. Khitoum are barber-surgeons.

mezizah/metzitzah
The sucking of blood from the wound, nowadays done through a glass tube. (Heb., = sucking, not to be confused with Mezuzah, a holder for a scroll, nailed to a door-post)

muzayyeen
Barber. (pl. muzayyinUn -In.) The name used in Islamic North Africa from Morocco to Egypt. Barbers usually perform circumcisions.

mohel
Jewish ritual circumcisor. Need not be a rabbi. May be a doctor. (pl. Mohelim, fem. (Reform) mohelet)

moyle/moyil
Yiddish for mohel

muTahhar
Purified, circumcised (Ar., passive participle of TaThIr)

muTahhir
Islamic ritual circumcisor (Ar., = purifier)

perangan
Slotted board used in Malay ritual circumcision (cf barzel)

periah/priyah
The radical form of Jewish circumcision instituted (or formalised) in the second century CE to prevent concealment. (Heb., = complete)

peritomy
Anglicised Gk = circumcision. St Paul said repeatedly that it was not necessary for Christians. (peri = around, -tomia = cutting)

sply
Split the penis ("like a hotdog" - Glenn Epps), an even more extreme form of subincision.

subincision
A ventral slit in the penis through to the urethra, from the meatus some way along the shaft, customary among some Australian aboriginal peoples.

super[in]cision
A dorsal slit in the foreskin, used by/on the priestly and royal castes of ancient Egypt and still customary among some Pacific peoples. (If done pre-puberty, the outcome looks similar to circumcision and has the advantage over circumcision that no tissue is lost.)

tahara
Circumcision (Ar. = purification)

taThIr
Circumcise (Ar., = make pure)

Tok Mudim
(Malay) Ritual circumcisor

Urkwtha
Ritual circumcision in the Ciskei of Southern Africa (Xhosa)

 

RESTORATION

BUFF method

A restoration method promoted by BUFF, involving regular stretching.

decircumcise

See restore.

fore-ball

Dumbbell-shaped steel device for late stages of restoration. The skin is taped over one ball, the other used to attach weight or elastic.

J-tape

Restoration method developed by Johnny: <johnny.com@sympatico.ca> for details.

Point Of Equilibrium

The point (actually a line around the penis) where tension toward the glans and toward the base is equal when T-tape draws the skin forward.

Recap (tm)

Early name for the Restor-EZ

restore

Return penis to as near as possible to the way it would be if not circumcised, by a) using mild tension over time to encourage growth, b) surgery.

Restor-EZ

System of restoration involving a cylindical splint.

RS system

Restore Skin system. A kitset consisting of T-tape, suspender-like elastics, and a special oil to remove the tapes and their adhesive.

T-tape

Surgical tape made in a T-shaped cross-section, with the top of the crossbar adhesive, gripping both sides of the skin to be pulled forward, and the upright used to apply tension.

Tugger (tm)

A weight shaped to fit the front of the glans, to which the restoring foreskin may be taped, with a hole for urination. (Formerly P.U.D., Penis Uncircumcising Device)

uncircumcise

Restore foreskin. "Uncircumcised" is not generally used in Intactivist circles to describe intact penises or men.

 

INTACTIVISM

disendow
Reduce endowment. A word (adapted to this sense in 1996 by John Antonopoulis of Montreal) whose derivatives, disendowment, etc., usefully remind people that circumcision reduces the size of the penis - something some men are said to care about.

intact
Whole (of man or penis, with his or its original foreskin) (L. = not touched)

Intactivism
The movement to protect children from having healthy parts of their genitals cut off.

Intactivist
The highest form of human life, one who selflessly devotes him/herself to the cause of Intactivism. (Word coined by Richard De Seabra in 1995 - although not with this definition.)

Intactness Day
July 1, as far as possible from the Feast of the Circumcision, a yet-to-be-celebrated festival of intactness, whether achieved, wished for or worked for.

Intact Network
A group of intact and restoring men, and women, promoting Intactivism through the "Intact Network" newsletter.

"Intact Network"
A two-monthly newsletter promoting Intactivism, edited by Ken Derifield <intacnet@e-z.net>

Intact-Up
A yet-to-be-formed body that will retire Circumstraints (tm), rescue babies, spill mock-blood on hospital steps, disrupt meetings of circumcisors and (non-violently) bomb circumcision chambers.

Penis Day
(Date to be decided) A day set aside for celebrating the penis. (Some women will ask, "What day isn't?") 

ABBREVIATIONS

ACOG
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

AHA
American Hospital Association

AMA
Albanian Medical Association; American Medical Association

AAP
American Academy of Pediatrics

BJU
British Journal of Urology

BMJ
British Medical Journal

BUFF
Brothers United for Future Foreskins, a restoration organisation ("mostly married heterosexuals" - Bud Berkeley)

c.
circumcise, circumcision. Many people try to avoid the words.

CF/IS
Circumcised Fathers of Intact Sons, a support group

circ[.]
circumcise, circumcision. Many Intactivists dislike this abbreviation because it trivialises (and - sounding like "dirk" - "masculinises? - HY) the operation.

CIRP
Circumcision Information and Resource Pages (http://www.cirp.org/CIRP/ )

CMA
Canadian Medical Association

CPA
Canadian Paediatric Society

FGM
Female Genital Mutilation (previously known as female circumcision)

FIG
Fear, Ignorance, Greed - three of the main motivations for circumcision.

FoF
Friends of Foreskin, an Intactivist umbrella group (New Zealand)

FR
Foreskin Restoration

FS
ForeSkin

HGM
Human Genital Mutilation (FGM + MGM)

HOW
Healing Our Wounds, a San Francisco support group for circumcised men. Contact Wayne Goodman <WGoodman@pacbell.net>.

JAMA
Journal of the American Medical Association

IMAC
Intact Men Against Circumcision, an Intactivist organisation

LC
Law Commission (UK)

MGM
Male Genital Mutilation

NOCIRC
National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers

NOHARMM
National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males

NORM
National Organi[s/z]ation of Restoring Men, a restoration organisation. (s in NZ, z in US) The US one has the domain name NORM.ORG

NRC
Non-Religious Circumcision (coined by Don Morgan, not widely current)

OB/GYN
Obstetrician/Gyn[a]ecologist. A doctor specializing in childbirth/women, with no particular expertise in the genitalia of baby boys. (L = one who stands in front / Gk = one who discourses on women)

POE
Point Of Equilibrium

P.U.D.
See Tugger.

RIC
Routine Infant Circumcision (an in-house Intactivist expression)

RS
Restore Skin (system)

SMEGMA.
Stop Mutilating Every Goy Manchild Automatically, a transient three-member organisation on a Compuserve holistic health group, headed by John Chastain. See also smegma.

USA
(also) Uncircumcised Society of America, a club mainly for gay men with a foreskin fetish.

 

Thanks to

for comments and corrections.

(c) Copyright 1998 by Hugh Young

May be freely republished in the cause of ending infant genital mutilation.


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