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A virgin (or maiden) originally meant a woman who has never had sexual intercourse. Virginity is the state of being a virgin. It is derived from the Latin virgo, which means "sexually inexperienced woman". As in Latin, the English word is also often used with wider reference, by relaxing the age, gender or sexual criteria.[1] Hence, more mature women can be virgins (The Virgin Queen), men can be virgins, and potential initiates into many fields can be colloquially termed virgins; for example, a skydiving "virgin". In the latter usage, virgin simply means uninitiated.

By extension from its primary sense, the idea that a virgin has a sexual "blank slate",[2] unchanged by any past intimate connection or experience,[2] leads to the abstraction of unadulterated purity (see below). Hence, virgin can even be used with non-human referents. Unalloyed metal is sometimes described as virgin.[1] Some cocktails can be described as virgin, when lacking the alcoholic admixture.[1] Similarly, olive oil may be called virgin if it contains no refined oil and has an appropriate acidity [3]. Unfertilized gametes and computer systems can be virgin.[1] Females of various species, by analogy with Homo sapiens, if they have never mated, can also be called virgin.[1]

The loss of virginity may call to mind the end of innocence, and the beginning of sexual maturity. In this association "virgin" often references the first instance of a potentially extended series of like events. Just as extra-virgin olive oil is from the first pressing, so a maiden or virgin speech is an incumbent's first address. The same metaphor, using the synonym maiden, is applied to the first or maiden voyage of a ship. In cricket, a maiden over is an over from which no runs were scored. Maiden castles are those with the reputation of never having been captured.

Chastity does not imply virginity. Chastity derives from the Latin castitas, meaning "cleanliness" or "purity"—and does not necessarily mean the renunciation of all sexual relations, but rather the temperate sexual behavior of legitimately married spouses, for the purpose of procreation, or the sexual continence of the unmarried.[4]


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