Butt Naked or Buck Naked – Which is Correct?

Taking off one’s clothes can be fun and liberating. It is also an important step in washing one’s body, so most people do it frequently.

When you are writing about someone who has taken off all of his or her clothes, should you use the phrase buck naked or butt naked?

At first glance, one of these terms seems to make much more sense than the other. When we look closer, though, there is a clear preference for the other in published English.

What is the Difference Between Butt Naked and Buck Naked?

In this post, I will compare butt naked vs. buck naked. I will outline the correct phrase and use it in example sentences so you can see it in context.

Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that will allow you to choose whether you want to get buck naked or butt naked at a moment’s notice.

When to Use Buck Naked

butt naked versus buck nakedWhat does buck naked mean? The phrase buck naked means completely unclothed. You are buck naked when you take a shower, for example, and babies are born buck naked.

Check out these sentences,

  • We dared Evan and Elena to jump in the lake buck naked, but they wouldn’t do it.
  • The fraternity members played a prank on the new pledges by stealing their clothes and making them walk buck naked back from the showers.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union has fired off a letter accusing the police of violating citizens’ constitutional rights to express whatever it is they’re expressing when they slip hollowed-out pumpkins over their heads and race buck naked down the Pearl Street pedestrian mall. –The Wall Street Journal

There are many theories as to the origin of buck naked, many of them are simply speculation. One of the more popular origin stories relates to buck as reference to male deer and goats.

The skin of bare buttocks, apparently, is considered pale and smooth like buckskin.

The precise origin of the phrase is probably lost, however.

When to Use Butt Naked

define buck naked define butt nakedWhat does butt naked mean? Butt naked is an alternate version of the same phrase. In some ways, it the more intuitive form: if you are completely naked, your butt is showing. You are, therefore, butt naked.

But English has never claimed to be an intuitive language, and buck naked is an older phrase, so it remains the predominant form to this day.

The creators of the Google Ngram viewer had to anticipate that their search tool would be used for juvenile purposes such as these. Indeed, as you can see from the chart below, buck naked greatly outshines butt naked in terms of frequency of use.

definition of butt naked definition of buck naked definition

That said, butt naked is growing in its use. It’s still not on the same level as buck naked, but it is clearly getting more popular.

This chart, is not necessarily a scientific chart, since it only looks at books published in English since 1800, but it still shows us that buck naked is the preferred term, at least in published works.

Trick to Remember the Difference

If you must use one of these phrases in professional or academic writing, it should be buck naked. Butt naked, while common in the informal English spoken in locker rooms and college dorms, is not an accepted variation in edited writing.

Buck Naked vs. Butt Naked: Since the words buck and naked are each spelled with the letter K, remember this letter to remember which phrase to use.

Summary

Is it butt naked or buck naked? Buck naked and butt naked each mean completely unclothed.

  • Buck naked is the older term that predominates in published writing.
  • Butt naked is common in spoken, informal English.

If you must use either, choose buck naked, so that editors will take you seriously.

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