Prostitution Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Do you know the meaning of prostitution? Read on to learn everything you need to know about prostitution, including its definition, origin, and more.

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Did you know that the state of New York is looking to decriminalize sex work? It’s true — the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act would be the first bill of its kind in the nation’s history and could change the current law that governs prostitution. 

That said, do you know what prostitution means? If you don’t, we’ll tell you everything you need to know. 

Read on to discover the word prostitution’s definition, origin, synonyms, and more. 

What Is the Definition of Prostitution?

Sometimes called “the oldest profession,” prostitution is illegal in almost all fifty states — but what is it? 

At its most basic definition, prostitution can be defined as the exchange of a sexual act (such as sexual intercourse) for money. State laws have expanded the definition of prostitution to make it a crime to offer, agree to, or engage in any kind of sexual act for compensation of any kind.

To further your understanding, let’s take a look at a few definitions from the dictionary:

  • According to the Oxford English Dictionary, prostitution can be defined as the occupation or practice of engaging in sexual activity with someone for valuables or payment. 
  • Cornell Law School says prostitution involves engaging, agreeing, or offering to engage in sexual conduct with another individual in return for a fee. 

After reviewing these definitions, we can conclude that prostitution is the practice or business of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. 

Prostitute vs. Sex Worker 

The terms prostitute and sex worker are often used interchangeably; however, they are slightly different. In short, “sex worker” recognizes that sex work is just that — work. Prostitution, on the other hand, has connotations of immorality and criminality. 

With that in mind, many folks who sell sex sexual acts or services typically prefer the term “sex worker” because the word “prostitute” can sound demining and stigmatizing, which contributes to their exclusion from legal, health, and social services.  

What Is the Origin of Prostitution?

The origin of the term prostitution is not crystal-clear. However, references to female sex workers can be found as early as the 18th century BC in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. 

Prostitution has been documented in almost every culture on the planet and appears in many ancient and religious texts.

The status of sex workers has varied quite a bit throughout eras and cultures, with some — like Japanese Oiran and French courtesans — having relatively high stature while others — including modern American sex workers — are seen as lawbreakers.

Synonyms and Related Words

To help further your understanding of the word prostitution, it can be helpful to review words that have the same or nearly the same meaning — aka, synonyms — as well as related words and phrases. 

By learning synonyms and words that are closely related to prostitution, you’ll discover new terminology and enhance your overall vocabulary.   

  • Sex work
  • The oldest profession 
  • Rough trade
  • Doe
  • Hustling
  • Harlot
  • Call girl
  • Lady of the night
  • Escort
  • Vice
  • Brothels
  • Fornication
  • Courtesan
  • Cocotte
  • Sex industry
  • Vixon
  • Working girl

Examples of Prostitution in a Sentence

Now that you understand what prostitution means, it’s time to practice using the word in a sentence. Quiz yourself to see how many sentences you can come up or check out our usage examples listed below:

Were you aware that prostitution is illegal in some countries?

Unfortunately, many women were forced into prostitution at a very young age. However, other women enjoy sex work and choose it willingly.

Both Fox News and NBC News are reporting on prostitution tonight.

Sarah used to work in prostitution, but now she writes commercials for massive companies around the globe.

Despite what some ladies may think, male prostitution isn’t as common as female prostitution.

I heard prostitution is pretty common around those brothels on 4th street; that’s why the police are always there

Did you read the article in the Washington Post about prostitution? 

Various online news sources have been discussing prostitution lately.

Prostitution refers to selling promiscuous sexual relations.


Prostitution refers to the act or practice of engaging in promiscuous sexual relations — especially for money. 

Today, prostitution is illegal in the United States; however, sex work may become decriminalized in the next few years.

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to truly understand the word prostitution. If you would like to discover more interesting words, feel free to check out our website where you’ll find information on hundreds of terms, helpful grammar tools, useful tips, and more.   


  1. (PDF) What Counts as Prostitution? | Research Gate
  2. PROSTITUTION English Definition and Meaning |
  3. prostitution | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute
  4. PROSTITUTION | definition | Cambridge English Dictionary