Becoming a Nudist – Chapter 2. Nudism or naturism? – Words and semantics


Previous part: Untying the knot

Are you a nudist or a naturist, or even a naturalist? Do you like nudism, naturism or naturalism? Are you naked or nude? So many words to talk about the practice of being clothes free at home and outside, alone and with friends, resting or being active. Words have meanings, words are powerful. In this chapter we will go over those words. We will try to understand what their meanings are and how we can make them ours. We will also see they cover a vast array of practices and have a common denominator: nudity.

Nudism, the Simple Word

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nudism as “the practice of going nude especially in sexually mixed groups and during periods of time spent at specially secluded places”. Interestingly enough, provides a slightly different definition as “the practice of going nude, especially in places that allow sexually mixed groups, in the belief that such practice benefits health”.

The Cambridge dictionary defines nudism as “the activity of wearing no clothes because you believe that wearing no clothes is healthy”. The Wiktionary defines nudism as “the belief in or practice of going nude in social, desexualized and frequently mixed-gender groups specifically in cultures where going nude in the social situation is not the norm”. Finally, the Collins dictionary defines nudism as “the practice of not wearing any clothes on beaches and other areas specially set aside for this purpose”.

As we can see, there are as many definitions to nudism as there are dictionaries. If you are looking for more, you will find more definitions. Some talk about special areas for nudism, some about secluded places, some about social situations, some about health benefits. Not one seems to align with the other, but on one common theme: nudity.

Nudism is about being nude, that is wearing no clothes. Whatever the reason may be for being nude seems irrelevant. Nudism, nudist, nudity, and nude share the same root, the Latin word nudus, meaning nude, naked, unclothed. This is for us, nudists, the one important notion to keep in mind: nudism is about being nude, naked, unclothed. But what about the word naturism that seems to be widely used, particularly outside of the United States?

Is naturism different?

Let’s look at it through the same sources used previously. The Merriam Webster starts by confusing us, providing three potential meanings: naturalism, the worship of the forces of nature and nudism. clears the confusion, as it states that naturism is “another name for nudism”.

The Cambridge dictionary provides our first definition for naturism, as “the belief that it is good and healthy to wear no clothes, or the activity of doing this”. It seems pretty close to the definition it as giving to nudism, though. The Wiktionary provides two definitions. One identical to the one provided by the Merriam Webster, “the worship of the powers of nature”. And another one, close its definition of nudism: “The belief in or practice of going nude in social settings, often in mixed-gender groups, specifically either in cultures where this is not the norm or for health reasons.” Finally, the Collins dictionary may be the ultimate referee in stating that “naturism is the same as nudism”.

Hence, outside of the worship of nature and the mention of naturalism, all dictionaries agree that nudism and naturism are the same belief. The final word may be given to Wikipedia which writes that “naturism is a lifestyle and cultural movement advocating social nudity” and automatically redirects a search for nudism to the naturism page.

The root of naturism is the Latin word natura, that is the substance or the essence of a thing. It’s interesting to note that it derives from nascor that means be born. And it’s true that when we are talking about nudism or naturism, we refer our clothing choice to be our birthday suit. So naturism can be interpreted as being as we were born: naked and unashamed. And not really refer to nature, natural practices, natural living, in an organic sense.

Nudism and Naturism, Same Reality, Different Words

As we have seen in the previous paragraphs, nudism and naturism seem to cover the same reality. Naturism has, however, an official definition that was given in 1974 by the International Naturist Federation:

Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterized by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.

Change naturism with nudism and you have an equivalent definition:

Nudism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterized by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.

But what does “in harmony with nature” mean? Do I have to be in nature to enjoy naturism? What if I want to be naked in an urban environment or in a building, like for instance an indoor swimming pool? Some people don’t like nature, can’t they practise naturism then? Can’t I respect the environment while not feeling “in harmony” with nature?

I personally prefer the definition given by Liz and James Egger in their book The Complete Guide to Nudism, Naturism & Nudists:

Naturism is the enjoyment of getting as naked as possible, wherever and whenever appropriate, alone or with others, just for its own sake.

Change Naturism by nudism and it still makes perfect sense:

Nudism is the enjoyment of getting as naked as possible, wherever and whenever appropriate, alone or with others, just for its own sake.

Crystal clear, in my opinion, particularly the last four words: for its own sake. They say what nudism and naturism are. It’s all about being naked, nude, unclothed for the sake of being naked, nude, unclothed. Not for being seen, not for showing off, not for having sex, just for being naked, nude, and unclothed.

So there may be an International Naturist Federation, an American Association for Nude Recreation, a Naturist Society, naturist federations, nudist beaches, naturist resort, they all represent the same reality through the use of two words. Whether you are enjoying nudism or naturism, you are enjoying being naked for the sake of being naked. This is why I think nudism and naturism are the two sides of the same coin: enjoying nudity for just the sake of nudity!

Talking of nudity, are you nude or naked?

Naked, Nude or Bare?

In many languages, there’s only one word for describing the absence of clothing. In French for instance, it’s “nu”. In Spanish, it’s “desnudo”. In German, it’s “nackt”. In English, though, there are two words: naked and nude. Once again, let’s asked the dictionaries.

 The Merriam Webster provides many definitions, and the one that interests us is nude is “devoid of a natural or conventional covering, especially: not covered by clothing or a drape.” For naked, it says “not covered by clothing: nude”, and finally for bare: “lacking a natural, usual, or appropriate covering”. It also provides the synonyms to nude: “au naturel, bare, bottomless, disrobed, mother-naked, naked, raw, stripped, unclad, unclothed, undressed”. That’s a lot for a simple state of being without clothes… is even more direct. Nude is defined as “naked or unclothed, as a person or the body”, naked as “being without clothing or covering; nude”, and bare as “without covering or clothing; naked; nude.” 

The Wiktionary states that nude is “Without clothing or other covering of the skin; without clothing on the genitals or female nipples”, naked is “bare, not covered by clothing”, and bare is “naked, uncovered”.

The Cambridge dictionary offers the simple definition to nude: “not wearing any clothes”. It provides the exact same definition for naked and a slightly enhanced one for bare: “without any clothes or not covered by anything”.

Finally, the Collins states that “a nude person is not wearing any clothes”, “someone who is naked is not wearing any clothes”, and “if a part of your body is bare, it is not covered by any clothing”.

So, all dictionaries agree that nude, naked and bare describes the same lack of clothing. After a lot of research, though, I found this quote from John Berger insightful:

“To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude. (The sight of it as an object stimulates the use of it as an object.) Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. To be naked is to be without disguises.”

All we can say is there are some subtleties in the meaning. Being naked is just enjoying nudity by oneself, being nude is being seen naked. I am naked when I’m alone, I’m nude when I’m naked with others, be they naked or not.

Although I love words, their meaning and their etymology, it seems to me nude, naked and bare are describing the same reality of being without clothes, as the definitions describe them. Am I nude, naked or bare when I am without clothes at home, in nature or at a nudist resort? All three at the same time it seems if I embrace the nudist lifestyle. We can debate for pages and ages around the subtle differences and it provides a good exercise. The conclusion is whether you are nude, naked or bare, you are not wearing any clothes and the adjective you use is yours.

Naturism, Nudism, Nude, Naked, the Same Reality

So here we are with words. Am I a nudist or a naturist? Am I nude or naked? Do I enjoy nudism or naturism? As we have just seen, those words describe the same reality, with slight and subtle differences.

Those words also reflect differences in cultures. Exactly as you write and pronounce English differently in the USA, the UK and Australia for instance. A nudist in the USA is a naturist in the UK. A naturist in the USA may not be understood as being a nudist, and a nudist in the UK may not be understood as being a naturist.

Of course, the meaning of words is important. Linguists agree that meaning varies with time and geography. However, as we have gone through various definitions, it appears that the foundational meanings of naturist and nudist are the same, as are the ones of nude, naked and bare.

The naked truth is that if you naked, nude or bare, you are not wearing any clothes. The naked truth is that if you enjoy naturism or nudism, you enjoy being naked, nude or bare. The naked truth is that if you are a naturist or nudist, you enjoy naturism or nudism, or both as they describe the same reality: enjoying being without any clothing outside of any sexual reason.

Nudism and naturism define the enjoyment of spending time without bothering wearing clothing. They define the fact that being without clothing should neither be shameful nor sexual. The define a lifestyle that do not judge people by their clothes or their body. The define a reality that humans have forgotten: we were born naked and should not hide our bodies because we have sexualized them.

We Love Labels

Another reality we are living in is that we love labels and giving names to things, behaviours or people. I love being naked, I should be a nudist. A nudist is somebody who loves to be naked. But is it that simple?

I love cooking, does it make me a cook? I love writing, does it make me a writer? I love playing the piano, does it make a pianist? I love being nude, does it make me a nudist?

I am a marketer, a husband, a dad, a surfer, a driver, a cook, a writer, a pianist and a nudist…. Wow, that’s a lot of labels for a poor human being. But do all those words define who I am? In a sense, they define pieces of who I am. But who I am is all those pieces together, not one of those taken in isolation.

So loving being nude, naked or bare sticks the label nudist or naturist on my back. I’m good with this, as I’m a nudist and feel good about it. However, many people tend to limit their vision of others through one lens. Being a nudist does not mean that I want everyone to be a nudist, that I want to be nude every day or that I want to impose my nudity in every circumstance. I just want to be able to be who I am without being judged by the labels others stick on my back.

I may be a utopist in that matter, but this is the philosophy I’m living by, in a world where labels unfortunately matter a lot. Behind labels are human beings with feelings, needs and wants. Nudists look at humans not at labels.

The True Meaning

So if there are those subtle differences between the words and their meanings, what does being a nudist mean? For me and many nudists I’ve been talking to over the years, it means we just love being naked because it is comfortable. It means that if we had to choose, we’d rather be naked than clothed, when temperature is comfortable and people around us accepts our nudity without being offended. It means our naked body is not a source of shame.

The latter is probably the one important aspect of nudism: the end of body shame. All human beings have flaws, scars, and various body imperfections. Most human beings are taught a naked body is shameful and nudity should remain private as it is directly linked to sexuality. However, as we will see it in chapter 4, we can, more or less easily, kill that shame, that is not only useless but harmful.

Being a nudist is leaving shame along with clothes in the closet. Being a nudist is leaving the sexual meaning of the naked body with clothes in the closet. Being a nudist is embracing nudity as a normal and natural state of being.

As I’ve written numerous times and will continue writing, there’s nothing shameful about naked bodies. We should not be ashamed to be seen or to see naked bodies. We don’t have to be ashamed to be nude on our own and with others. The true meaning to nudism is to embrace nudity as a normal and natural state, and to rediscover the pure joy of simple nudity, that all kids know. 

One Ring to Rule Them All

I want to end this part on the meaning of words about an analogy with the Lord of the Rings. In the book, Frodo Baggins has the duty to destroy the One Ring. This Ring rules all the rings of power. I often think about Nudism as the One White Ring. Not the Dark One, Tolkien describes in the books, but a White One that unites the many Rings of Power of the humans: Respect, Love, Benevolence, Health, Self-care, Simplicity, Beauty, Confidence…

Nudism goes beyond the subtle differences in words. Whether you call this nudism or naturism, whether you enjoy being nude or naked, you embrace the comfort of nudity for its own sake. Not to prove anything, not to show anything, and not to see anything, but to be who we are, in our bare reality.

Nudism is a state of being that allows to enhance life, to get closer to our true self and to feel grounded in our human reality. Nudism is bringing simplicity back in our lives as we are about to see in the next part. Simple nudity is at the core of nudism.

Next part: Nudity, plain and simple

Strip Nude, Stay Nude, Live Nude and Share the Nude Love!

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay


  1. G’morning, Marc… Great article… And, further cements the fact that the English language is the hardest to learn… 1) same words, same spelling (whether pronounced the same or differently), different meanings; 2) same-sounding words, different spellings, different meanings; 3) different words entirely that all mean the same thing;
    Personally, I love being nude, naked, bare, in private or in public, alone or with someone of any gender or with many people of the same, opposite, or mixed genders, in a building, or outside whether out in nature or otherwise, in non-sexual situations, or in sexual situations, in socially acceptable venues or not.
    I love being nude, naked, bare… in any circumstance, period.
    The United States of America… Land of the Free… the “most free country” in the world… not… this country is one of the most prudish, narrow-minded, restrictive countries in some ways… in many ways… in the free world… nudism/naturism is one of those areas.

  2. The article isn’t complete, Marc. You defined Nudism, then Naturism, but forgot to treat Naturalism. A Naturalist is a completely different thing from a Nudist. They are those who study plants and animal life. David Attenborough is a Naturalist. Botanists and Zoologists are examples of Naturalists.

Leave a Reply