For the first two hundred years of its existence in English, the primarily capitalized word Lesbian exclusively referred to people from the island of Lesbos in the northeastern Aegean Sea. The modern connection to homosexuality is due to the poet Sappho, who lived on the island and was well known for her erotic writings about both men and women (sapphic is another adjective used to describe lesbians). Beyond that, the term (which came to us through Latin Lesbius and Ancient Greek lesbios is thought to maybe mean "forested" in Hittite, but that's unsure. For a while, lesbian was kept out of print literature, but it finally started gaining traction in the 1970s with the women's liberation and gay rights movements, peaking in the year 1997 and slightly decreasing in usage since then.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.