AskDefine | Define phallic

Dictionary Definition

phallic adj
1 relating to a phallus especially as an embodiment of generative power; "a phallic cult"; "phallic worship"
2 resembling or being a phallus; "a phallic symbol"; "phallic eroticism"; "priapic figurines" [syn: priapic]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Having to do with the penis.
    The Washington Monument is widely considered a phallic symbol.


Having to do with the penis
  • German: phallisch
  • Hebrew: ,
  • Portuguese: fálico
  • Romanian: falic
  • Russian: фаллический

See also

Extensive Definition

The word phallus can refer to an erect penis, or to an object shaped like a penis.


Via Latin, and Greek , from Indo-European root *bhel- "to inflate, swell". Compare with Old Norse (and modern Icelandic) boli = "bull", Old English bulluc = "bullock", Greek = "whale".

In physical anatomy

The phallus (embryology) can refer to a precursor of the penis or clitoris.
It also refers to the male sexual organ of certain birds, which differs anatomically from a true (i.e. mammalian) penis; see Bird anatomy.

In art

Ancient and modern sculptures of phalloi have been found in many parts of the world, notably among the vestiges of ancient Greece and Rome. See also the Most Phallic Building contest for modern examples of phallic designs. In many ancient culture, phallic structures symbolized wellness and good health.
The Hohle phallus, a 28,000-year-old siltstone phallus discovered in the Hohle Fels cave and first assembled in 2005, is among the oldest phallic representations known..


In Tantric Shaivism a symbolic marker, the lingam is used for worship of the Hindu God Shiva. In related art the linga or lingam is the depiction of Shiva for example: mukhalinga) or cosmic pillar.This pillar is the worship focus of the Hindu temple, and is often situated within a yoni, indicating a balance between male and female creative energies. Fertility is not the limit of reference derived from these sculptures, more generally they may refer to abstract principles of creation. Tantrism should not be generalised to all forms of Hindu worship. The mukhalingas of the Huntington Archive might well be compared with the personified Phallos terracotta of the Delos Museum, depicted by Jean Marcadé in "Die Griechen" (Ars et Amor: Die Erotik In der Kunst, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, München, 1978, pg 78).

Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians related the cult of phallus with Osiris. When Osiris' body was cut in 13 pieces, Seth scattered them all over Egypt and his wife Isis retrieved all of them except one, his penis, which was swallowed by a fish (see the Legend of Osiris and Isis).
The phallus was a symbol of fertility, and the god Min was often depicted ithyphallic (with an erect penis).

Ancient Greece

In traditional Greek mythology, Hermes, god of boundaries and exchange (popularly the messenger god) was considered to be a phallic deity by association with representations of him on herms (pillars) featuring a phallus. There is no scholarly consensus on this depiction and it would be speculation to consider Hermes a type of fertility god.
Pan, son of Hermes, was often depicted as having an exaggerated erect phallus.
Priapus was a Greek god of fertility whose symbol was an exaggerated phallus. The son of Aphrodite and either Dionysus or Adonis, according to different forms of the original myth, he was the protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens, and male genitalia. His name is the origin of the medical term priapism.

Ancient Scandinavia

The Norse god Freyr was a phallic deity, representing male fertility and love.
The short story Völsa þáttr describes a family of Norwegians worshipping a preserved horse penis.

Ancient Rome

Ancient Romans wore phallic jewelry as talismans against the evil eye.

Native America

Figures of Kokopelli in Pre-Columbian America often include phallic content.

Ancient Japan

The Mara Kannon shrine (麻羅観音 or まらかんのん)in Nagato city, Yamaguchi prefecture, is one of many fertility shrines in Japan that still exist today. Also present in festivals such as the Danjiri Matsuri (だんじり祭)in Kishiwada city, Osaka prefecture, and the Kanamara Matsuri, in Kawasaki city, though historically phallus adoration was more widespread.


Min Dionysus in Delos 's Muddler, with handy scale for comparison

In psychoanalysis

The symbolic version of the phallus, a phallic symbol is meant to represent male generative powers. According to Sigmund Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, while males possess a penis, no one can possess the symbolic phallus. Jacques Lacan's Ecrits: A Selection includes an essay titled The Significance of the Phallus which articulates the difference between "being" and "having" the phallus. Men are positioned as men insofar as they are seen to have the phallus. Women, not having the phallus, are seen to "be" the phallus. The symbolic phallus is the concept of being the ultimate man, and having this is compared to having the divine gift of God.
In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler explores Freud's and Lacan's discussions of the symbolic phallus by pointing out the connection between the phallus and the penis. She writes, "The law requires conformity to its own notion of 'nature'. It gains its legitimacy through the binary and asymmetrical naturalization of bodies in which the phallus, though clearly not identical to the penis, deploys the penis as its naturalized instrument and sign" (135). In Bodies that Matter, she further explores the possibilities for the phallus in her discussion of The Lesbian Phallus. If, as she notes, Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of the phallus from the penis elsewhere, then any number of other things might come to stand in for the phallus (62).

In fiction

Phallic symbolism can be perceived in a wide range of fiction and other popular culture works (in particular when analyzed in the context of psychoanalysis, although frequently that view is unconfirmed or unsanctioned by the creators).
phallic in Bulgarian: Фалос
phallic in Danish: Fallos
phallic in German: Phallus
phallic in Modern Greek (1453-): Φαλλός
phallic in Spanish: Falo
phallic in Esperanto: Faluso
phallic in Italian: Simbolismo fallico
phallic in French: Phallus
phallic in Lithuanian: Falas
phallic in Dutch: Fallussymbool
phallic in Norwegian: Fallos
phallic in Polish: Fallicyzm
phallic in Portuguese: Falo
phallic in Swedish: Fallossymbol
phallic in Ukrainian: Фалос
phallic in Chinese: 菲勒斯
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