We're here to help you understand the terms and phrases important to male contraception.
The terminology related to sexual reproductive health, generally, and male contraception, specifically, can be confusing or even inaccessible if you do not have a background in basic science. We created this glossary of terms in an effort to help address this. With that in mind, please reach out to us and let us know if there are any additional terms that you would like to see added to this page. We're here to help!
Glossary of Terms
Acrosome - an organelle that develops over the anterior half of the head in the spermatozoa (sperm cells) of many animals including humans.
Albumin - a protein made by your liver that helps keep fluid in your bloodstream so it doesn't leak into other tissues. Albumin also carries various substances throughout your body, including hormones, vitamins, and enzymes.
Alkaline - bases that are soluble in water with a pH greater than 7.0.
Androgen - a male sex hormone, such as testosterone.
Antigen - a toxin or other foreign substance which induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies.
Anus - the opening at the end of the alimentary canal through which solid waste matter leaves the body.
Asexual - reproduction not involving the fusion of gametes.
Barrier Method - a method of contraception using a device or preparation which prevents live sperm from reaching an ovum.
Biochemical - relating to the chemical processes and substances which occur within living organisms.
Birth Control - the practice of preventing unwanted pregnancies, especially by use of contraception.
Blood-testis Barrier - a physical barrier between the blood vessels and the seminiferous tubules of the animal testes.
Cauterization - medical practice or technique of burning a part of a body to remove or close off a part of it.
Cell - the basic building blocks of all living things.
Cervical Mucus - fluid or gel-like discharge from the cervix. Throughout a woman's menstrual cycle, the thickness and amount of cervical mucus changes due to fluctuating hormone levels.
Cervix - the narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus.
Chromosome - a threadlike structure of nucleic acids and protein found in the nucleus of most living cells, carrying genetic information in the form of genes.
Coenzyme - a non-protein compound that is necessary for the functioning of an enzyme.
Conception - the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both.
Condom - a thin rubber sheath worn on a man's penis during sexual intercourse as a contraceptive or as a protection against infection.
Contracept - to prevent pregnancy or impregnation; provide with the means for birth control.
Contraception - the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse.
Contraceptive - a device or drug serving to prevent pregnancy.
Copulation - sexual intercourse.
Cytoplasm - the material or protoplasm within a living cell, excluding the nucleus.
Dental Dam - a thin, square piece of latex that helps prevent the spread of STDs when placed over the vulva or anus during oral sex.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) - a molecule composed of two polynucleotide chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses.
Diaphragm - a birth control device made of soft silicone and shaped like a shallow cup. The diaphragm covers the cervix to prevent pregnancy. Used with spermicide, the diaphragm is a reversible barrier method of birth control available only by prescription.
Doula - a person who gives emotional support during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth and for some time after.
Dry Orgasm - orgasm from a penis without ejaculation (when semen comes out of the penis).
Ductus Deferens - ducts that transport sperm from the epididymis to the ejaculatory ducts.
Dysmenorrhea - painful menstrual periods which are caused by uterine contractions. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to recurrent pain, while secondary dysmenorrhea results from reproductive system disorders.
Ejaculate - eject semen from the body at the moment of sexual climax (verb). Semen that has been ejected from the body (noun).
Ejaculation - the action of ejecting semen from the body.
Endocrine System - a chemical messenger system consisting of hormones, the group of glands of an organism that secrete those hormones directly into the circulatory system to regulate the function of distant target organs, and the feedback loops which modulate hormone release so that homeostasis is maintained.
Enzyme - a substance produced by a living organism which acts as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction.
Epididymis - a highly convoluted duct behind the testis, along which sperm passes to the vas deferens.
Erection - an enlarged and rigid state of the penis, typically in sexual excitement.
Estrogen - any of a group of steroid hormones which promote the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body. Such hormones are also produced artificially for use in oral contraceptives or to treat menopausal and menstrual disorders.
External Spermatic Fascia - a bilayered covering of the testis derived from abdominal muscle.
Family Planning - the practice of controlling the number of children in a family and the intervals between their births, particularly by means of artificial contraception or voluntary sterilization.
Fertility - the ability to conceive children or young.
Fertilization - the action or process of fertilizing an egg, female animal, or plant, involving the fusion of male and female gametes to form a zygote.
Fructose - also known as fruit sugar, it is a simple sugar found in many plants, where it is often bonded to glucose to form the disaccharide sucrose.
Gamete - a mature haploid male or female germ cell which is able to unite with another of the opposite sex in sexual reproduction to form a zygote.
Gene - a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, the order of which determines the order of monomers in a polypeptide or nucleic acid molecule which a cell (or virus) may synthesize.
Genital - a person or animal's external organs of reproduction.
Germ - a portion of an organism capable of developing into a new one or part of one.
Gland - an organ in the human or animal body which secretes particular chemical substances for use in the body or for discharge into the surroundings.
Glucose - a simple sugar which is an important energy source in living organisms and is a component of many carbohydrates.
Gonad - an organ that produces gametes; a testis or ovary.
Haploid - (of a cell or nucleus) having a single set of unpaired chromosomes.
Hirsutism - abnormal growth of hair on a person's face and body, especially on a woman.
Homeostasis - the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.
Hormonal Contraceptives - birth control methods that act on the endocrine system.
Hormone - a regulatory substance produced in an organism and transported in tissue fluids such as blood or sap to stimulate specific cells or tissues into action.
Human Reproductive System - the system of organs and parts which function in reproduction consisting in the male especially of the testes, penis, seminal vesicles, prostate, and urethra and in the female especially of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, and vulva.
In Vitro Fertilization - process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body.
In Vivo Fertilization - fusion of sperm with egg occurs within the body of a female.
Infertility - inability to conceive children or young.
Intercourse / Sexual Intercourse - sexual contact between individuals involving penetration, especially the insertion of a man's erect penis into a woman's vagina, typically culminating in orgasm and the ejaculation of semen.
Intrauterine Device (IUD) - a small, often T-shaped birth control device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
Ion - an atom or molecule with a net electric charge due to the loss or gain of one or more electrons.
Jizz - semen, ejaculate.
Klinefelter’s Syndrome - an intersex condition where someone is born with one Y and two X chromosomes (XXY). Sometimes diagnosed during puberty, sometimes not until adulthood, depending on symptoms. Symptoms can include a small penis, abnormal body proportions, and infertility.
Labia Majora - the larger outer folds of the vulva.
Labia Minora - two small folds of skin, lacking fatty tissue, that extend backward on each side of the opening into the vagina.
Libido - sexual desire.
Lipoprotein - any of a group of soluble proteins that combine with and transport fat or other lipids in the blood plasma.
Lubricant - a water-based liquid or jelly used to enhance or replace a woman's natural lubrication during sexual intercourse.
Meiosis - a type of cell division that results in four daughter cells each with half the number of chromosomes of the parent cell, as in the production of gametes and plant spores.
Menorrhagia - medical term for menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding.
Method Effectiveness - the reliability of a contraceptive method.
Mitochondria - membrane-bound cell organelles (mitochondrion, singular) that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell's biochemical reactions.
Mitosis - a type of cell division that results in two daughter cells each having the same number and kind of chromosomes as the parent nucleus, typical of ordinary tissue growth.
Non-hormonal Contraceptives - birth control options that do not contain hormones.
Nucleotide - a compound consisting of a nucleoside linked to a phosphate group. Nucleotides form the basic structural unit of nucleic acids such as DNA.
Nutrient - a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.
Occlude - stop, close up, or obstruct (an opening, orifice, or passage).
Oocyte - a cell in an ovary which may undergo meiotic division to form an ovum.
Oral Contraceptive - a birth control method taken by mouth.
Organelle - any of a number of organized or specialized structures within a living cell.
Organic - relating to or derived from living matter.
Ovulation - the release of an egg during menstruation in females.
Ovum - a mature female reproductive cell, especially of a human or other animal, which can divide to give rise to an embryo usually only after fertilization by a male cell.
Penis - the male genital organ of higher vertebrates, carrying the duct for the transfer of sperm during copulation. In humans and most other mammals, it consists largely of erectile tissue and serves also for the elimination of urine.
Phagocytosis - the process by which a cell uses its plasma membrane to engulf a large particle.
Plasma - the colorless fluid part of blood.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - a condition that affects how the function of ovaries.
Pregnancy - the condition or period of being pregnant.
Pregnant - having a child or young developing in the uterus.
Progestogen/Progestin - a natural or synthetic steroid hormone, such as progesterone, that maintains pregnancy and prevents further ovulation during pregnancy.
Progesterone - a steroid hormone released by the corpus luteum that stimulates the uterus to prepare for pregnancy.
Protein - essential nutrients for the human body that are one of the building blocks of body tissue and can also serve as a fuel source.
Puberty - the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.
Pubic Hair - body hair that is found in the genital area of adolescent and adult humans.
Reproduction - the production of offspring by a sexual or asexual process.
Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) - a nucleic acid present in all living cells, its principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins, although in some viruses RNA rather than DNA carries the genetic information.
Scrotum - a feature of the male reproductive system that hangs from the body at the front of the pelvis, between the legs.
Semen - the male reproductive fluid, containing spermatozoa in suspension.
Seminal Fluid - semen, also known as seminal fluid, is an organic fluid that may contain spermatozoa. It is secreted by the gonads and other sexual organs of male or hermaphroditic animals and can fertilize female ova.
Seminiferous Tubules - any of the coiled threadlike tubules that make up the bulk of the testis and are lined with a layer of epithelial cells from which the spermatozoa are produced.
Sex Drive - the urge to seek satisfaction of sexual needs.
Sexual Intercourse - sexual contact between individuals involving penetration, especially the insertion of a man's erect penis into a woman's vagina, typically culminating in orgasm and the ejaculation of semen.
Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) - any of various diseases or infections that can be transmitted by direct sexual contact including some (such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital herpes) chiefly spread by sexual means and others (such as hepatitis B and AIDS) often contracted by nonsexual means.
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) - an infection you can get by having sex. Some STIs (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia) infect your sexual and reproductive organs. Others (such as HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis) cause general body infections. STIs used to be called VDs, or venereal diseases.
Sperm - the male reproductive cell or gamete.
Spermatid - an immature male sex cell formed from a spermatocyte that can develop into a spermatozoon without further division.
Spermatocyte - a cell produced at the second stage in the formation of spermatozoa, formed from a spermatogonium and dividing by meiosis into spermatids.
Spermatogenesis - the production or development of mature spermatozoa.
Spermatogonia - developing sperm cells, originating from spermatogonial stem cells.
Spermatozoa - the mature motile male sex cell of an animal, by which the ovum is fertilized, typically having a compact head and one or more long flagella for swimming.
Spermicide - a substance that kills spermatozoa, used as a contraceptive.
Sponge - contraceptive device that prevents sperm from entering the cervix and also contains spermicide.
Sterile - not able to produce children or young.
Sterilization - action to make a person or animal unable to produce offspring.
Testis - an organ which produces spermatozoa (male reproductive cells).
Testosterone - the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid in males, responsible for the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics
Tissue - any of the distinct types of material of which animals or plants are made, consisting of specialized cells and their products.
Toxin - a harmful substance produced within living cells or organisms.
Urethra - the duct by which urine is conveyed out of the body from the bladder, and which in male vertebrates also conveys semen.
Vagina - the muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in women and most female mammals.
Vas-deferens - the duct which conveys sperm from the testicle to the urethra.
Vasectomy - the surgical cutting and sealing of part of each vas deferens, typically as a means of sterilization.
Vulva - the name for the female external genitalia including the clitoris, labia (vaginal lips) and the opening to the vagina.
Wet Dreams - erotic dreams that can lead to ejaculation or vaginal lubrication. Common during puberty.
XY Chromosomes - the pair of sex-differentiating chromosomes that leads to someone being born with a penis and scrotum. Babies with xy chromosomes are usually assigned male at birth.
X Chromosome - one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in many organisms, including mammals, and is found in both males and females.
Y Chromosome - one of two sex chromosomes in therian mammals, including humans, and many other animals. Y is normally the sex-determining chromosome in many species, since it is the presence or absence of Y that typically determines the male or female sex of offspring produced in sexual reproduction.
Zona Pellucida - the thick transparent membrane surrounding a mammalian ovum before implantation.
Zygote - a diploid cell resulting from the fusion of two haploid gametes; a fertilized ovum.
Male Reproduction & Contraception
The science behind male reproduction can be challenging, yet it is critical to understand the biology in order to know how the male contraceptives of the future will function. In an effort to make this science more accessible, we have developed a series of primers about male reproduction and contraception: