The Meaning of Voyeurism: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of voyeurism? This guide will provide you with all of the info you need on the word voyeurism, including its definition, etymology, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word voyeurism mean?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Language Dictionary, and Healthline, amongst other dictionary apps, voyeurism is a noun that refers to the act of receiving pleasure from spying on other people in sexual situations or simply from observing their private life. People who are voyeurs take pleasure or gain sexual gratification from observing or spying on others Related words include the noun voyeur, which refers to a person who practices voyeurism and voyeuristic, which is an adjective.

A key element of voyeurism is that the person or people who are being observed so not know they are being watched and are under the assumption that they have some element of privacy. They could be in their home or in other private areas. This can make people feel very violated if a voyeur is spying on times that they believe to be private. A casual term for a voyeur is often referred to as a peeping Tom. Voyeurism can also become a paraphilic disorder, which involves sexual fantasies that cause distress. For some epeople, voyeurism presents itself as nothing but a fantasy. For others, this can develop into voyeuristic disorder which puts other people in danger and can require therapy and in some cases, hospitalization. Always make sure that you are practicing consent. Pornography, role-playing, and podcasts are all ways for people to fulfill their voyeuristc tendencies or fantasies while still obtaining consent from others. 

A person’s voyeurism can turn into voyeuristic disorder if they are violating other people’s expectations of privacy, enter spaces illegally, record others without their permission, feel stressed, angry, or frustrated if they cannot perform voyeurism, experience feelings of guilt while practicing voyeurism, cannot get aroused without voyeurism, or if they cannot resist practicing voyeurism even if they are detrimental to one or more parties. 

The word voyeurism also exists in numerous other languages. Since this word is of Latin origin, you may notice that some of the romance language translations for the word voyeurism are cognates, or very close in spelling and pronunciation, to the word voyeurism itself. This is because the romance languages are derived from Latin and so does the word voyeurism. The below list of translations is provided by Word Sense.

  • Catalan: voyeurisme‎ (masc.)
  • Portuguese: voyeurismo‎ (masc.)
  • French: voyeurisme‎ (masc.)
  • Japanese: 窃視症‎ (せっししょう, sesshishō)
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 窺淫狂症‎, 窥淫狂症‎ (kuīyínkuángzhèng), 窥淫癖‎, 窥淫癖‎ (kuīyínpǐ), 窺視症‎, 窥视症‎ (kuīshìzhèng)
  • German: Voyeurismus‎ (masc.)
  • Polish: wojeryzm‎ (masc.), oglądactwo‎ (neut.)
  • Greek: ηδονοβλεψία‎ (fem.)
  • Spanish: voyeurismo‎ (masc.)
  • Italian: voyeurismo‎ (masc.)
  • Turkish: röntgencilik‎
  • Esperanto: rigardismo‎
  • Russian: вуайери́зм‎ (masc.), скопофи́ли́я‎ (fem.)
  • Finnish: tirkistely‎

What is the origin of the word voyeurism?

According to Etymonline, the word voyeurism has been used to mean scopophilia since the year 1913. This word comes from the noun voyeur, which according to Etymonline has been used since 1889 to mean a scopophiliac. This word is a French Word that comes directly from the French voyeur, which literally means one who views or inspects. This comes from the French verb voir, which means to view. This word stems from the Latin videre, which means “to see.” Videre comes from the Proto-Indo-European root weid which means “to see.”

Also according to Etymonline, the word forming element –ism creates nouns that imply some form of practice or system. This suffix comes from the French isme, or possibly directly from the Latin isma or Latin ismus, which comes from the Greek ismos, which was a suffix added to words to form nouns. This comes from the stem of verbs though zein, which is a verb forming element. This is also sometimes seen as the Greek variant isma or ismat and forms the Italian and Spanish ismo as well as the Dutch and German ismus.

How can the word voyeurism be used in a sentence?

Voyeurism can be used to refer to either the fantasy or fetish of spying on unsuspecting individuals to fulfill the need for sexual pleasure, or it can refer to a diagnosis of voyeuristic disorder. As an example, someone might say, “I don’t actively practice voyeurism, but it is a fantasy of mine.” 

What are synonyms for the word voyeurism?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word voyeurism. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. It is very useful to know synonyms for different words in order to avoid repeating yourself, to expand your vocabulary, and to broaden your knowledge of the English language and English grammar. This list of synonyms for voyeurism is from Thesaurus and Synonyms.

  • bugging
  • prying
  • following
  • stalking
  • spying
  • espial
  • wiretapping
  • scoptophilia
  • peeping Tomism
  • surveyance
  • observing
  • peeping
  • surveillance
  • espionage

Overall, the word voyeurism refers to the act of obtaining pleasure or sexual gratification through watching others, whether the people are spied upon are performing everyday activities or sexual activity themselves. Voyeurism can range from nothing more than a fetish or fantasy to voyeuristic disorder, which is very serious and must be treated with therapy or hospitalization. These paraphilias often violate a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy and the voyeur experiences sexual arousal while watching the unsuspecting person undressing, disrobing, or performing sexual behavior like masturbation.