A selection of penises from different species at the Icelandic Phallological Museum

The penis (plural penises, penes) is a biological feature of male animals including both vertebrates (creatures with a backbone) and invertebrates. It is a reproductive, intromittent organ that additionally serves as the urinal duct in placental mammals.



The word "penis" is taken from the Latin word for "tail." Some derive that from Indo-European *pesnis, and the Greek word πέος = "penis" from Indo-European *pesos. Prior to the adoption of the Latin word in English the penis was referred to as a "yard". The Oxford English Dictionary cites an example of the word yard used in this sense from 1379,[1] and notes that in his Physical Dictionary of 1684, Steven Blankaart defined the word penis as "the Yard, made up of two nervous Bodies, the Channel, Nut, Skin, and Fore-skin, etc."[2]

As with nearly any aspect of the body involved in sexual or excretory functions, the penis is the subject of taboos, and there are many slang words and euphemisms for it, a particularly common and longstanding one being "cock".

The Latin word "phallus" (from Greek φαλλος) is sometimes used to describe the penis, although "phallus" originally was used to describe images, pictorial or carved, of the penis.[3]

Pizzle, an archaic English word for penis, of Low German or Dutch origin, it is now used to denote the penis of a non human animal.

The adjectival form of the word penis is penile. This adjective is commonly used in describing various accessory structures of male copulatory organs found in many kinds of invertebrate animals.

In different animals



As with any other bodily attribute, the length and girth of the penis can be highly variable between individuals of the same species. In many animals, especially mammals, the size of a flaccid penis is smaller than its erect size.

A bone called the baculum or os penis is present in most mammals but absent in humans and horses.

Domesticated mammals

In domestic animals the penis is divided into three parts:[4]

  • Roots (crura): these begin at the caudal border of the pelvic ischial arc.
  • Body: the part of the penis extending from the roots.
  • Glans: the free end of the penis.

The internal structures of the penis consist mainly of cavernous (erectile) tissue, which is a collection of blood sinusoids separated by sheets of connective tissue (trabeculae). Some animals have a lot of erectile tissue relative to connective tissue, for example horses. Because of this a horse's penis can enlarge more than a bull's penis. The urethra is on the ventral side of the body of the penis.

Stallions have a vascular penis. When non-erect, it is quite flaccid and contained within the prepuce (sheath). The retractor penis muscle is relatively underdeveloped. Erection and protrusion take place gradually, by the increasing tumescence of the erectile vascular tissue in the corpus cavernosum penis.[5]

A bull has a fibro-elastic penis. There is a small amount of erectile tissue and a small amount of enlargement after erection. The penis is quite rigid when non-erect, and becomes even more rigid during erection. Protrusion is not affected much by erection, but more by relaxation of the retractor penis muscle and straightening out of the sigmoid flexure.[5]

Dogs have a bulbus glandis at the base of their penis. During coitus the bulbus glandis swells up and results in a 'tie' (the male and female dogs being tied together). Muscles in the vagina of the female assist the retention by contracting.

The bull, ram and boar have a sigmoid flexure of their penis. This results in an S-shaped penis. It is straightened out during erection.

Other mammals

As a general rule, an animal's penis is proportional to its body size, but this varies greatly between species – even between closely related species. For example, an adult gorilla's erect penis is about 4 cm (1.5 in) in length; an adult chimpanzee, significantly smaller (in body size) than a gorilla, has a penis size about double that of the gorilla. In comparison, the human penis is larger than that of any other primate, both in proportion to body size and in absolute terms.[6]

In the realm of absolute size, the smallest vertebrate penis belongs to the Common Shrew (5 mm or 0.2 inches). Accurate measurements of the blue whale are difficult to take because the whale's erect length can only be observed during mating.[7]

Most marsupials, except for the two largest species of kangaroos, have a bifurcated penis. That is, it separates into two columns, and so the penis has two ends corresponding to the females' two vaginas.[8] Neither marsupials nor monotremes possess a baculum.

Echidnas have a four-headed penis, but only two of the heads are used during mating. The other two heads "shut down" and do not grow in size. The heads used are swapped each time the mammal has sex.[9]

Other vertebrates

Most male birds (e.g., roosters and turkeys) have a cloaca (also present on the female), but not a penis. Among bird species with a penis are paleognathes (tinamous and ratites), Anatidae (ducks, geese and swans), and a very few other species (such as flamingoes). A bird penis is different in structure from mammal penises, being an erectile expansion of the cloacal wall and being erected by lymph, not blood. It is usually partially feathered and in some species features spines and brush-like filaments, and in flaccid state curls up inside the cloaca. The Argentine Blue-bill has the largest penis in relation to body size of all vertebrates; while usually about half the body size (20 cm), a specimen with a penis 42.5 cm long is documented.

Male turtles and crocodiles have a penis, while male specimens of the reptile order Squamata have two paired organs called hemipenes. Tuataras must use their cloacae for reproduction.[10]

In some fishes, the gonopodium, andropodium, and claspers are intromittent organs (to introduce sperm into the female) developed from modified fins.

The spine covered penis of Callosobruchus analis, a Bean weevil.


The record for the largest penis to body size ratio is held by the barnacle. The barnacle's penis can grow to up to forty times its own body length. This enables them to reach the nearest female.[7]

In male insects, the structure analogous to a penis is known as aedeagus. The male copulatory organ of various lower invertebrate animals is often called the cirrus.

A number of invertebrate species have independently evolved the mating technique of traumatic insemination where the penis penetrates the female's abdomen and deposits sperm in the wound it produces. This has been most fully studied in bedbugs.

Cultural uses

  • Culinary, particularly in Chinese gastronomy (such as dishes from the Guo Li Zhuang Restaurant)
  • Magical and therapeutic, in medicine and/or superstition, especially as an alleged aphrodisiac or supposed cure for impotence – for example the deer penis and tiger penis.
  • Punitive implements, such as the bull pizzle made into a form of whip.
  • Dog chew toys, such as the bull pizzle (cut into short lengths for this purpose).

See also


  1. ^ Simpson, John; Weiner, Edmund, eds (1989). "yard, n.2". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. Online edition, print version ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8, CD-ROM ISBN 978-0-19-861016-8. 
  2. ^ Simpson, John, ed (2005). "penis, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (Draft revision September 2005 ed.). Oxford University Press. Online edition.  (1989 second edition: ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8, CD-ROM ISBN 978-0-19-861016-8)
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  4. ^ Reece, William O. (2009). Functional Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 9780813814513. 
  5. ^ a b Sarkar, A. (2003). Sexual Behaviour In Animals. Discovery Publishing House. ISBN 9788171417469. 
  6. ^ Human penis is larger than that of any other primate. Darwin's legacy: scenarios in human evolution, p. 121. S.T. Parker, K.E. Jaffe.
  7. ^ a b "The Largest Penis in the World – Both for humans and animals, size does matter! – Softpedia". 2007-01-05. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  8. ^ [1] Iowa State University Biology Dept. Discoveries about Marsupial Reproduction Anna King 2001. webpage] (note shows code, html extension omitted)
  9. ^ Shultz, N. (2007-10-26). "Exhibitionist spiny anteater reveals bizarre penis". New Scientist website. Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  10. ^ Lutz, Dick (2005), Tuatara: A Living Fossil, Salem, Oregon: DIMI PRESS, ISBN 0-931625-43-2

External links

Media related to Penis at Wikimedia Commons

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pénis — pénis …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • pénis — [ penis ] n. m. • 1618; lat. penis, d ab. « queue des quadrupèdes » ♦ Anat. Organe de la miction et de la copulation, chez l homme. ⇒ membre (viril), verge; fam. ou arg. biroute, bite, braquemart, pine, quéquette, 1. queue, robinet, 2. zizi, zob …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Penis — des Menschen Als Penis ( Aussprache?/ …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • penis — PÉNIS, penisuri, s.n. (anat.) Organ masculin de copulaţie şi micţiune. – Din fr. pénis, lat. penis. Trimis de cata, 27.03.2009. Sursa: DEX 98  PÉNIS s. (anat.) membru, (livr.) falus, (înv. şi pop …   Dicționar Român

  • Penis — Sm erw. fremd. Erkennbar fremd (19. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus l. pēnis Schwanz, männliches Glied .    Ebenso nndl. penis, ne. penis, nfrz. pénis, nschw. penis, nnorw. penis. Das lateinische Wort aus ig. * pes nis, entsprechend zu ai. pásas ,… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • penis — 1670s, perhaps from Fr. pénis or directly from L. penis penis, earlier tail (Cf. Eng. tail in both senses, the sexual one slang), from PIE *pes /*pesos penis (Cf. Skt. pasas , Gk. peos, posthe penis, probably also O.E. fæsl progeny, offspring,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Penis — Penis, primäres Begattungsorgan verschiedener Wirbelloser (z.B. Plattwürmer, Egel, Schnecken, Insekten), vieler Reptilien und der Säuger. Der paarige Hemip. der Schlangen und Eidechsen besteht aus Kloakentaschen, die eine Spermienrinne bilden.… …   Deutsch wörterbuch der biologie

  • pênis — s. m. 2 núm. [Anatomia] Órgão sexual masculino. = FALO, PENE   ‣ Etimologia: latim penis, is, cauda   ♦ Grafia em Portugal: pénis …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • pénis — s. m. 2 núm. [Anatomia] Órgão sexual masculino. = FALO, PENE   ‣ Etimologia: latim penis, is, cauda   ♦ Grafia no Brasil: pênis …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • penis — [pē′nis] n. pl. penises or penes [pē′nēz΄] [L, tail, penis < IE base * pes > Sans pásas , Gr peos, OE fæsl, penis] the male organ of sexual intercourse: in mammals it is also the organ through which urine is ejected penile [pē′nīl΄, pē′nil] …   English World dictionary

  • Penis — Pe nis (p[=e] n[i^]s), n. [L.] (Anat.) The erectile external sexual organ of males, used in copulation, and in mammals, also for urination. [1913 Webster +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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