[This might be a better fit for the linguistics SE, but I'm especially skeptical of the German etymology, hence posting it here.]

The standard, ubiquitous and seemingly accepted etymology for German Popo S.m., meaning butt, ass, is given through studentensprachliches Latin podex, abbreviated and reduplicated to Popo. It is mainly, but not exclusively (and definitely not in the abbreviated Po with the same meaning), used when talking to childen, and the reduplication is considered as somehow related to children's language.

By itself, I find no reason to doubt this well-accepted derivation. However, I have now seen a multitude of very similar words with very similar meanings, in languages that are not at all similar to German, and moreover, I have come across several distinct etymologies, depending on the language.

Closest to German in this list, in English, we have poo and poo-poo, meaning not butt, but fecies, and according to etymonline, it is supposed to be of "imitative origin".

In Italian, we have popò, meaning again fecies, but Treccani claims it was modelled after pipí, meaning, lo and behold, pee.

In Latin Spanish, there is popó, which can mean both, depending on the country you're in, and apparently absent in Peninsular Spanish. I couldn't find an etymology.

Also in French, popo can mean both fecies and chamberpot, and at least Wiktionary says it is derived from pot.

In Hungarian (!), we have popó, meaning butt, in concordance with the German Popo; I couldn't find an etymology.

Of all these etymologies, I find those I couldn't find the most convincing. I sincerely doubt that the German etymology is correct, as it appears as the most contrived in my eyes. Is there any reason to believe it (in particular believe it above e.g. claiming its being modeled after German Pipi), beyond appeal to authority (such as Grimm, I understand)?

  • Please note: there is the German word pupen/pupsen (to fart) which is maybe/most likely the equivalent to poo(p) when it comes to etymology.
    – mtwde
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 6:35
  • Possibly related: see ISBN 978-3406629891. The author makes an excellent point about how in various languages insults/expletives are of sexual nature, whereas in German they often are about the backside and its "products". Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 9:40
  • @0xC0000022L Huh, I thought this was debunked as myth already?
    – Arsak
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 11:10
  • @Arsak if it was, it went right past me. Care to give any pointers? Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 18:24
  • You can add Russian to the list as well. Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


I can not answer everything, but I can give kind of hints that might help to approach to the right answers.

First of all: English poo and poop are pronounced with [uː] ([puː], [puːp]) while all other words have one or two [oː] as their vowel. So, I do not believe, that these words have the same origin.

Wiktionary presents 4 different etymologies for poop, the most intesting is the first:

Origin uncertain, possibly from Middle English poupen (“to make a gulping sound while drinking, blow on a horn, toot”). Compare Dutch poepen (“to defecate”), German Low German pupen (“to fart; break wind”).

In German the word pupen still exists, but more common is pupsen, which has derived from pupen. Both words mean "to fart". I believe, that the origin is an onomatopoetic word that imitates the sound of short farts.

I do not believe, that English poo, poop and German pupen, pupsen which all have an [uː] sound are related to German Po, Popo or other words with an [oː] sound.

Hungary belonged to the Habsburg Empire for more than 200 years (1699 - 1918) and in this time was ruled by German speaking kings, aristocrats and officials. In this time many Hungarian words were adopted in the Austria variation of German (Palatschinken, Gulasch, Tollpatsch, Puszta), and also many German words became part of Hungarian language (bál = Ball, fácán = Fasan, koffer = Koffer, vekker = Wecker). Maybe popó became part of Hungarian language this way.

  • Wiktionary presents one relevant etymology for the meaning in question, right? At least in English, we have a change o > u in the GVS (which is of course ignoring the ME poupen Wiktionary mentions, I just want to point out that this particular vowel constellation could have a fairly simple explanation). In any case, German pupen is a borrowing from Niederdeutsch according to Kluge, and might directly be related to the English word. But I wouldn't know how. You're probably right in separating poo from Popo though, no pun intended (all right, maybe a little bit). Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:16
  • As for Hungarian: Tollpatsch!? Wow, who knew! But then, I have trouble believing that one would need a loanword for conveying the meaning of butt. Koffer, Wecker, Ball (Tanzball!), Fasan, fine, Hungarians had no old words for those things that were probably relevant mostly in a Nobility context, and if they had, using the language of the Habsburgians is a matter of social distinction. But doing so for a child's tushy? I don't know. It's possible I guess. Still, all of this leaves me wondering all the more about Podex. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:20
  • About Tollpatsch: Wikipedia, DWDS, Wiktionary, wissen.de Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 13:25
  • "Maybe popó became part of Hungarian language this way." orvmaybe vice-versa?
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 23:15
  • 1
    It should be noted that p was regularly turned f through Grimm's law in Germanic. So it seems exceedingly unlikely that popo were not a loan word. This makes it so interesting. I know a variant Popöter and I suppose Pöter(le) also exists. Even if akin to podex, the different ending would likely imply an older date, but how old I really can't say. The accentuation also seems foreign. Armes Putput.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 23:57

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