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Hetero- comes from the Greek word έτερος [héteros], meaning "other party" or "another", used in science as a prefix meaning "different"; and the Latin word for sex (that is, characteristic sex or sexual differentiation). The term "heterosexual" was first published in 1892 in C.G. Chaddock's translation of Krafft-Ebing's "Psychopathia Sexualis. The noun came into use from early 1920s, but did not enter common use until 1960s. The colloquial shortening "hetero" is attested from 1933. The abstract noun "heterosexuality" is first recorded in 1900. The word "heterosexual" was first listed in Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary as a medical term for "morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex"; however, in 1934 in their Second Edition Unabridged it is defined as a "manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality". The adjective heterosexual is used for intimate relationships or sexual relations between male and female.

For lessons on the related topic of Sexuality, follow this link.


  • 1a : of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward the opposite sex
b : of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between individuals of opposite sex


Heterosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between persons of opposite sex or gender in the gender binary. As a sexual orientation, heterosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectionate, physical or romantic attractions to persons of the opposite sex"; it also refers to "an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them". The term is usually applied to humans, but it is also observed in all mammals.

It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with a bisexual and a homosexual orientation, all a part of the heterosexual–homosexual continuum (asexuality also sometimes being included as the fourth).

History of heterosexual symbolism dates back to the earliest artifacts of humanity, which included ritual fertility carvings and primitive rock art. This was later expressed in the symbolism of fertility rites and polytheistic worship, which often included images of human reproductive organs. The modern symbols of heterosexuality in the societies derived from Europe are still referenced to the symbols used in these ancient beliefs, with the image in this section being a combination of the symbol for Mars as the definitive male stereotype of a warrior, and Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

See also


Marriage—mating—grows out of bisexuality. Marriage is man's reactional adjustment to such bisexuality, while the family life is the sum total resulting from all such evolutionary and adaptative adjustments. Marriage is enduring; it is not inherent in biologic evolution, but it is the basis of all social evolution and is therefore certain of continued existence in some form. Marriage has given mankind the home, and the home is the crowning glory of the whole long and arduous evolutionary struggle.[1]