These are three of the eighteen definitions of virgin from the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED1, pages 230–232).

Most of the OED1 definitions, however, are similar. Jungfrau literally means "young woman", but is not used in this sense. The rather dated German word for a young (unmarried) woman, without implications regarding sexuality, is Fräulein.

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According to Hanne Blank, "virginity reflects no known biological imperative and grants no demonstrable evolutionary advantage." Although virginity has historically been correlated with purity and worth, many feminist scholars believe that it is a myth.

They argue that no standardized medical definition of virginity exists, there is no scientifically verifiable proof of virginity loss, and sexual intercourse results in no change in personality.

There are cultural and religious traditions that place special value and significance on this state, predominantly towards unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth.

Like chastity, the concept of virginity has traditionally involved sexual abstinence.

" By contrast, in a study released in 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute, author of the findings Laura Lindberg stated that there "is a widespread belief that teens engage in nonvaginal forms of sex, especially oral sex, as a way to be sexually active while still claiming that technically, they are virgins", but that her study drew the conclusion that "research shows that this supposed substitution of oral sex for vaginal sex is largely a myth".

A 2003 study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality focusing on definitions of having sex and noting studies concerning university students from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia reported that "[w]hile the vast majority of respondents (more than 97%) in these three studies included penile-vaginal intercourse in their definition of sex, fewer (between 70% and 90%) respondents considered penile-anal intercourse to constitute having sex" and that "oral-genital behaviours were defined as sex by between 32% and 58% of respondents".

They described losing their virginities in one of three ways: "as a gift, stigma or part of the process." Carpenter states that despite perceptions of what determines virginity loss being as varied among gay men and lesbians as they are among heterosexuals, and in some cases more varied among the former, that the matter has been described to her as people viewing sexual acts relating to virginity loss as "acts that correspond to your sexual orientation," which suggests the following: "So if you're a gay male, you're supposed to have anal sex because that's what gay men do.

And if you're a gay woman, then you're supposed to have oral sex, because that's what gay women do.

The English cognate "maid" was often used to imply virginity, especially in poetry - e.g.

Maid Marian, the love interest of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood in English folklore.

"About 80 percent of respondents said penile-anal intercourse meant 'had sex.' About 70 percent of people believed oral sex was sex." Virginity pledges (or abstinence pledges) made by heterosexual teenagers and young adults may also include the practice of "technical virginity".