AskDefine | Define buggery

Dictionary Definition

buggery n : anal intercourse committed by a man with a man or woman [syn: sodomy, anal sex, anal intercourse]

User Contributed Dictionary



The term buggery originated in medieval Europe as an insult used to describe the rumoured same-sex sexual practices of the heretics from the Buggre sect. This sect originated in medieval Bulgaria, where its followers were called bogomils, but when they spread out of the country they were called buggres (from ethnonym Bulgars).


  1. Anal sex between men.
    • “Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery…shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be kept in penal servitude for life or for any term not less than ten years.” Prior to 1861, the offence carried the penalty of execution. (UK) Offences Against the Person Act 1861. (The offence of buggery between consenting adults was repealed by the Sexual offences Act of 1993).
  2. (Obsolete) Any sexual act "contra naturam" including bestiality and necrophilia.

Extensive Definition

The English term buggery is very close in meaning to the term sodomy, and is often used interchangeably in law and popular speech. It is also a specific criminal offence under the English common law.

In law

Under most common law legal systems, the term buggery is a criminal offence with a specific legal meaning. In English law, "buggery" was first used in the Buggery Act 1533, while Section 61 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, entitled "Sodomy and Bestiality", defined punishments for "the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal". Neither Act defined what constituted buggery. Over the years the courts have defined buggery as including either:
  1. anal intercourse by a man with a man or woman, or
  2. vaginal intercourse by either a man or a woman with an animal,
but not any other form of "unnatural intercourse".
At common law consent was not a defence; nor was the fact that the parties were married. As with the crime of rape, buggery required that penetration must have occurred, but ejaculation is not necessary.
Most common law countries have now modified the law to permit anal sex between consenting adults.


The word bugger and buggery are still commonly used in modern English as a profanity, and "buggery" is also synonymous with anal sex.
The word "bugger" was derived, via the French "bougre", from "Bulgar", that is, "Bulgarian", meaning the medieval Bulgarian heretical sect of the Bogomils, which spread into Western Europe and was claimed by the established church to be devoted to the practice of sodomy,. "Buggery" first appears in English in 1330, though "bugger" in a sexual sense is not recorded until 1555.



  • Smith & Hogan, Criminal Law (10th ed), ISBN 0 406 94801 1
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