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Vagina vs. vulva

In female mammals, the vagina is the passage leading from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus. The word is commonly misused in place of vulva, which denotes the external genital organs of the female mammal. This mistake is so common that we probably can’t stop it, but grownup users of English should nevertheless know the difference between the words.

For both words, some dictionaries list Latin plurals, vaginae and vulvae. These forms are indeed standard in scientific and medical writing, but elsewhere the English plurals, vulvas and vaginas, are just as good and less pretentious.


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Examples

During childbirth, as the baby passes through the vagina, the fascia, ligaments, and muscles around the vagina stretch and may become weakened. [The Complete Encyclopedia of Medicine and Health]

“His left hand is under my head and his right hand caresses me” may describe the man caressing the woman’s vulva. [NPR]

Pacik said a shot of Botox at the entrance of the vagina works similarly to the way it does on the face, allowing muscles to relax. [New York Daily News]

An increase of swelling and reddening of the vulva indicates the cow is in “standing heat.” [Modern Livestock and Poultry Production]

[B]ut their hearts start to melt when they both stick their hands up a cow’s vagina to pull out a breach-birthed calf. [Telegraph]

She rubs ointment on her vulva while taking a business call. [Salon]

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