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The English word whore derives from the Old English word hōra, from the Proto-Germanic *hōrōn (prostitute), which derives from the Proto-Indo-European root *keh₂- meaning "desire", a root which has also given us Latin cārus (dear), whence the French cher (dear, expensive) and the Latin cāritās (love, charity).

Use of the word whore is widely considered pejorative, especially in its modern slang form of ho.

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.'" The word prostitute was then carried down through various languages to the present-day Western society.

Female prostitutes could be independent and sometimes influential women.

They were required to wear distinctive dresses and had to pay taxes.

In some places, men who drive around red-light districts for the purpose of soliciting prostitutes are also known as kerb crawlers. The prostitution metaphor, "traditionally used to signify political inconstancy, unreliability, fickleness, a lack of firm values and integrity, and venality, has long been a staple of Russian political rhetoric." In 1938, he used the same description for the Comintern, saying that the chief aim of the Bonapartist clique of Stalin during the preceding several years "has consisted in proving to the imperialist 'democracies' its wise conservatism and love for order.

The word "prostitution" can also be used metaphorically to mean debasing oneself or working towards an unworthy cause or "selling out". For the sake of the longed alliance with imperialist democracies [Stalin] has brought the Comintern to the last stages of political prostitution." Besides targeting political figures, the term is used in relation to organizations and even small countries, which "have no choice but to sell themselves", because their voice in world affairs is insignificant.

A person who works in this field is called a prostitute, and is a type of sex worker.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.A streetwalker solicits customers on the streets or in public places, while a call girl makes appointments by phone, or in recent years, through email or the internet.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.

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