Word Origin & History
1520s, "to offer to indiscriminate sexual intercourse (usually in exchange for money)," from L. prostituere "to expose to prostitution, expose publicly," from pro- "before" + statuere "cause to stand, establish" (see stature
). The noun sense of "harlot" is from 1610s, from
L. prostituta "prostitute," fem. of prostitutus, pp. of prostituere. The notion of "sex for hire" is not inherent in the etymology, which rather suggests one "exposed to lust" or sex "indiscriminately offered." However, this is now almost the official European term for the institution, e.g. Ger. prostituierte, Rus. prostitutka, etc. Figurative sense (of abilities, etc.) is from 1590s. The noun meaning "a woman who offers her body indiscriminately" (usually for money) is from 1610s. Of men, in reference to homosexual acts, recorded from 1886 (in form prostitution).