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General Prostitute c. Some sources cite the verb as a composition of "pro" meaning "up front" or "forward" and "stituere", defined as "to offer up for sale". A literal translation therefore is: "to put up front for sale" or "to place forward". The Online Etymology Dictionary states, "The notion of 'sex for hire' is not inherent in the etymology, which rather suggests one 'exposed to lust' or sex 'indiscriminately offered.
Most sex worker activists groups reject the word prostitute and since the late s have used the term sex worker instead. However, sex worker can also mean anyone who works within the sex industry or whose work is of a sexual nature and is not limited solely to prostitutes.
Common alternatives for prostitute include escort and whore; however, not all professional escorts are prostitutes. Use of the word whore is widely considered pejorative , especially in its modern slang form of ho. In Germany, however, most prostitutes' organizations deliberately use the word Hure whore since they feel that prostitute is a bureaucratic term. Those seeking to remove the social stigma associated with prostitution often promote terminology such as sex worker , commercial sex worker CSW or sex trade worker.
Another commonly used word for a prostitute is hooker. Although a popular etymology connects "hooker" with Joseph Hooker , a Union general in the American Civil War , the word more likely comes from the concentration of prostitutes around the shipyards and ferry terminal of the Corlear's Hook area of Manhattan in the s, who came to be referred to as "hookers". Correctly or not, use of the word prostitute without specifying a sex may commonly be assumed to be female; compound terms such as male prostitution or male escort are therefore often used to identify males.
Those offering services to female customers are commonly known as gigolos; those offering services to male customers are hustlers or rent boys. Modern terminology Sex workers' rights activists have campaigned for the preferential use of the term full-service sex work over the use of the historically used term prostitution, citing the implications around control and consent within each word.