AskDefine | Define genitalia

Dictionary Definition

genitalia n : external sex organ [syn: genital organ, genitals, private parts, privates, crotch]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin genitalia, substantive use of plural of genitalis meaning "pertaining to generation or birth", from the Greek genete, (birth).



genitalia; plural noun
  1. genital or sex organs
  2. a collection of genitals



genitals or sex organs

Usage notes

Not used in the singular, which theoretically would be genitalium.

Extensive Definition

A sex organ, or primary sexual characteristic, as narrowly defined, is any of the anatomical parts of the body which are involved in sexual reproduction and constitute the reproductive system in a complex organism; in mammals, these are:
The Latin term genitalia, sometimes anglicized as genitals and genital area, is used to describe the externally visible sex organs, known as primary genitalia or external genitalia: in males the penis, in females the clitoris and vulva.
The other, hidden sex organs are referred to as the secondary genitalia or internal genitalia. The most important of these are the gonads, a pair of sex organs, specifically the testes in the male or the ovaries in the female. Gonads are the true sex organs, generating reproductive gametes containing inheritable DNA. They also produce most of the primary hormones that affect sexual development, and regulate other sexual organs and sexually differentiated behaviors.
A more ambiguously defined term is erogenous zone, subjectively, any portion of the body that when stimulated produces erotic sensation, but always prominently including the genitalia.


In typical prenatal development, sexual organs originate from a common anlage anatomy during early gestation and differentiate into male or female variations. The SRY gene, usually located on the Y chromosome and encoding the testis determining factor, determines the direction of this differentiation. The absence of it allows the gonads to continue to develop into ovaries.
Thereafter, the development of the internal reproductive organs and the external genitalia is determined by hormones produced by certain fetal gonads (ovaries or testes) and the cells' response to them. The initial appearance of the fetal genitalia (a few weeks after conception) looks basically feminine: a pair of "urogenital folds" with a small protuberance in the middle, and the urethra behind the protuberance. If the fetus has testes, and if the testes produce testosterone, and if the cells of the genitals respond to the testosterone, the outer urogenital folds swell and fuse in the midline to produce the scrotum; the protuberance grows larger and straighter to form the penis; the inner urogenital swellings grow, wrap around the penis, and fuse in the midline to form the penile urethra.
Each sexual organ in one sex has a homologous counterpart in the other one. See a list of homologues of the human reproductive system.
In a larger perspective, the whole process of sexual differentiation also includes development of secondary sexual characteristics such as patterns of pubic and facial hair and female breasts that emerge at puberty. Furthermore, differences in brain structure arises, affecting, but not absolutely determining, behavior.

See also

genitalia in Arabic: عضو جنسي
genitalia in Czech: Genitálie
genitalia in Welsh: System atgenhedlol
genitalia in Danish: Kønsorgan
genitalia in German: Geschlechtsorgan
genitalia in Modern Greek (1453-): Γεννητικά όργανα
genitalia in Persian: اندام جنسی
genitalia in French: Appareil reproducteur
genitalia in Croatian: Spolni organi
genitalia in Indonesian: Alat kelamin
genitalia in Italian: Apparato genitale
genitalia in Lithuanian: Lytiniai organai
genitalia in Dutch: Geslachtsorgaan
genitalia in Japanese: 生殖器
genitalia in Norwegian: Kjønnsorgan
genitalia in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kjønnsorgan
genitalia in Portuguese: Órgão sexual
genitalia in Russian: Репродуктивная система
genitalia in Simple English: Sex organ
genitalia in Slovak: Rozmnožovacia sústava
genitalia in Slovenian: Spolni organ
genitalia in Finnish: Sukupuolielin
genitalia in Swedish: Könsorgan
genitalia in Tagalog: Kasangkapang pangkasarian
genitalia in Thai: อวัยวะเพศ
genitalia in Turkish: Üreme sistemi
genitalia in Ukrainian: Статеві органи
genitalia in Chinese: 生殖器
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