One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A sebaceous secretion in the folds of the skin, especially under a man's foreskin.
- ‘Some doctors mistakenly think that the smegma under the foreskin is an infection, even though it is white rather than red, is cold to the touch, and is painless.’
- ‘When the foreskin is removed during circumcision, smegma no longer accumulates between the foreskin and glans, and smegma's immunoprotective properties are lost.’
- ‘One consequence of the germ theory of disease was to see smegma, produced by the foreskin, as infectious material.’
- ‘For example, it would be interesting to determine if smegma, a glandular discharge that collects under the foreskin and lubricates the glans, has spermicidal properties.’
Early 19th century: via Latin from Greek smēgma ‘soap’, from smēkhein ‘cleanse’.
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