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How would one translate “sexy” into Latin? In particular, I’m looking for a word or phrase that has a similar “slangy” feel to the English version.

I’ve considered a few possibilities: Catullus 10 lead me to the word invenustum, and thus to venustus (“attractive”), which seems to be a decent fit. I’ve also considered voluptuosus and sensualis, but I don’t think they mean quite the same thing as “sexy.”

I also tried to see if modern Italian has a word for “sexy” that could be traced back to Latin, but it seems “sexy” is used as a loanword instead.

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You know how in Greek there are three different words for love depending on what exactly you mean? The English 'sexy' is similar. However, the best I can think of is illecebrosus, -a, -um. From Lewis & Short:

I.full of allurement, very enticing, attractive, seductive (ante- and post-class.): “istoc illecebrosius Fieri nihil potest,” Plaut. Bacch. 1, 1, 54: “sapor,” Prud. adv. Symm. 2, 144: “insidiae,” Amm. 30, 1.—Adv.: illĕcĕ-brōsē , enticingly, attractively.—Comp.: “agi,” Amm. 30, 5, 7 (but not in Plaut. Mil. 3, 2, 36; v. Ritschl ad h. l.).

Now, if "alluring, enticing, attractive, and seductive" isn't what I'd call "sexy", I don't know is! It has the added benefit of being "low class," i.e. it's used in pre-Classical (Plautus from the looks of it) and late Latin authors, but the stodgy "Classical Latin" foregoes it.

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    Urbane. Gratias ago.
    – Batavulus
    Apr 6 at 18:47
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My first thought was also venustus -a -um, a fortiori b/c venus, after all, = “sex.” The question as to what is the most fitting translation leads to the question what the word (in English) means. My own understanding (only 20 years in the US & Australia) is that it can have different meanings, but often is a tad vague, although probably usually enjoyable.

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I know the word "formosa" can apply to someone "well-formed" and therefore "beautiful." Catullus once did a poem describing the word (and a girl named Quintia) in detail.

If your definition of sexy includes things beyond physical beauty, you might consider using the word formosa, since that is the context in which Catullus used it.

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Something/ someone deemed to be "sexy" is stimulating to the eye/ arousing so verb, "excito" = "rouse up; "wake up"; "raise", "erect"; "arouse" (Oxford) in a present-participle, giving:

"me excitans" = "arousing me".

There are the impersonal verbs: these have only a third-person singular, in each tense and have "it" as their subject e.g. "it is pleasing".

"iuvat" = "it pleases" (+ accusative of the person + infinitive);

"me iuvat eam videre." = "It pleases me to see her.".

"libet" = "it is pleasing" (+ dative + infinitive);

"mihi libuit eam videre." = "It pleased me to see her.".

"placet" = "It pleases" (+ dative);

"mihi placet" = "It pleases me." = "(it is) sexy", would seem to be the best alternative.

EDIT: 2/4/2021:

There are adjectives: "sexualis" = "sexual" & "naturalis" = "sexual" (Oxford) and = "of or pertaining to somebody's nature or qualities" (Wiki).

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    The term in English is far less...direct than your proposed translation :)
    – brianpck
    Feb 1 at 13:25
  • @brianpck: Weren't the Romans inclined to be blunt? Have you read Wiki's "Latin Profanity"?
    – tony
    Feb 1 at 22:04
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    Iuvat, libet, placet are all way to broad for “sexy” IMHO.
    – Batavulus
    Feb 5 at 20:56

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