virgin

“The Greek that is mostly translated as “virgin” in English can be translated as “woman that is untouched” in Batak Toba or “a woman with a whole (i.e. unopened) body” in Uab Meto.

“Similar words for “girl,” “unmarried young woman,” suggesting virginity without explicitly stating it, are found in Marathi, Apache, or Kituba. Cultural features naturally influence connotations of possible renderings, for instance, the child marriage customs in some Tboli areas, where the boy and girl are made to sleep together at the initial marriage, but after that do not live together and may not see each other again for years. Hence, the closest attainable equivalent, “female adolescent,” does not imply that a young girl is not living with her husband, and that she never had a child, but leaves uncertain whether she has ever slept with a male person or not. Accordingly, in Luke one has to depend on Luke 1:34 to make clear that Mary and Joseph had not had sexual intercourse. A different problem is encountered in Pampanga, where birhen (an adaptation of Spanish “virgen” — “virgin”), when standing alone, is a name of the “Virgin Mary.” To exclude this meaning the version uses “marriageable birhen,” thus at the same time indicating that Mary was relatively young.” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel, see here)

In Navajo, the term that is used is “no husband yet” (Source: Wallis, p. 106) and in Gola the expression “trouser girl.” “In the distant past young women who were virgins wore trousers. Those who were not virgins wore dresses. That doesn’t hold true anymore, but the expression is still there in the language.” (Source: Don Slager)

The term in Djimini Senoufo is katogo jo — “village-dance-woman” (women who have been promised but who are still allowed to go to dances with unmarried women). (Source: Übersetzung heute 3/1995)

In Igbo translations, typically a newly-created, multi-word phrase is used that very explicitly states that there has not been any sexual relations and that translates as “a woman (or: maiden) who does not know a man.” This is in spite of the fact that there is a term (agb͕ọghọ) that means “young woman” and has the connotation of her not having had sexual relations (this is for instance used by the Standard Igbo Bible of the Bible Society of Nigeria for Isaiah 7:14). Incidentally, the euphemistic expression “know” (ma in Igbo) for “having sex” has become a well-known euphemism outside of Bible translation. (Source: Uchenna Oyali in Sociolinguistic Studies Vol. 17 No. 1-3 (2023): Special Issue: Gender and sexuality in African discourses )

See also virgins (Revelation 14:4).

virgins (Revelation 14:4)

The Greek that is translated as “virgin” in English (but refers to men) is translated in Igbo “they are pure like maidens who don’t know a man,” following the neologism that was created for “virgin” that relates only to women in Igbo (see virgin), despite the fact that it is possible to follow the same rules and create a neologism for male virgins. (Source: Uchenna Oyali in Sociolinguistic Studies Vol. 17 No. 1-3 (2023): Special Issue: Gender and sexuality in African discourses )

In German (and similarly in some other Germanic languages) the term for “virgin” is Jungfrau (literally “young woman”). This passage that refers to male virgins still uses the term jungfräulich (“virginal,” lit. “like a young woman”) in most traditional German Bible translations (Luther, Einheitsübersetzung, Zürcher Bibel).