Buck Naked vs. Butt Naked – Which Is Correct?

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

One of the most common misunderstandings in the English language is the difference between “buck naked” and “butt naked.” Most people assume they’re interchangeable, but there’s a big difference between them. In my little guide, I will explore the meaning of each term and show you when it is appropriate to use them.

Buck Naked and Butt Naked

Butt naked vs buck naked ngram
Usage trend of buck naked and butt naked.

Although the slang terms “buck naked” and “butt naked” are both used to refer to a completely naked person, “buck naked” is the more traditional of the two. Buck naked is considered the correct academic form of the expression, but butt naked is frequently used in spoken English.

What Does Butt Naked Mean?

The term “butt naked” usually describes someone who is completely naked. But where did buck naked come from? The origins of this common phrase are somewhat unclear. One theory I’ve seen is that it comes from the military practice of “stripping down to fight.” When soldiers were forced to strip down to their underwear to battle, they would often leave their pants or skirts in a pile known as a “butt.”

Thus, the phrase “butt naked” came to refer to someone who was completely undressed. Another theory holds that the term is simply a corruption of the phrase “buck naked,” which has been used since the 16th century to describe someone nude. Regardless of its origins, the phrase “butt naked” is now commonly used to describe someone who is completely naked.

What Does the Term Buck Naked Mean?

The phrase “buck naked” is most likely of American origin. It first appeared in print in the early 19th century, though its origins are unknown. It is generally believed to be a derogatory term for Native Americans, who were often portrayed as naked in popular culture at the time.

Some speculate that the expression dates back to the time when enslaved people were being traded. On the auction block, enslaved Africans were displayed without their clothing so that potential purchasers might have a better look at them. Young males of African and Indian descent were sometimes called “bucks.”

Over time, the meaning of “buck naked” has changed, and it is now used to describe someone completely naked. However, the phrase’s connotation remains largely negative, as it is often used to describe someone exposed or vulnerable.

Buck Naked vs. Butt Naked: Which Is Right?

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Both of these phrases are correct. However, buck naked is accepted in academic and formal writing, while butt naked is not.

Trick to Remember the Difference Between Idioms Like These

If you are required to use any of these phrases in your academic writing, “buck naked” is the phrase you should choose. Although the phrase “butt naked” is frequently used in the casual English that is used in college dorms, you should avoid using it in edited writing.

Keep in mind that the letter K is shared by the words “buck” and “naked;” therefore, you should focus on this letter to recall the appropriate phrase.

Using the Phrase Butt Naked in a Sentence

These examples show how to use butt naked in a sentence:

  • I find this butt-naked picture of her very tasteful.
  • When Rose asked Jack to draw her, she lay on the sofa butt naked.

Using the Phrase Buck Naked in a Sentence

Here are a couple of examples showing how to use buck naked in a sentence:

  • Babies are born into this world buck-naked.
  • If we’re going skinny dipping in the lake, I propose we do it buck naked.

The Final Words

If you are required to use any of these well-known expressions in your academic writing, buck naked should be your choice. While both phrases mean “undressed,” buck naked is accepted in formal and academic writing.

Other resources

Language Log offers a more thorough take
“Buck Naked” at the Mavens’ Word of the Day