Have you ever considered why condoms are called ‘Johnnies’? It’s an amusing moniker, but has a surprisingly long history. To get to the bottom of this age-old question, let’s examine why we affectionately refer to condoms as ‘Johnnies’ or ‘French letters’ and even ‘Rubbers’ for centuries.

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Why are Condoms Called Johnnies?

The origin of the term ‘Johnnie’ dates back to 17th century Britain, when people started referring to condom packages as “John Milles” or “Johnny Mills”. People did this in honour of John Milles, who ran an apothecary shop in London and sold condoms. He was one of the first to sell condoms commercially and became so well-known for it that his family name eventually became associated with the product itself.

As time passed, the phrase ‘John Milles’ evolved into its current form, ‘Johnnies’. This term is still used today as a colloquialism for condoms. Aside from Johnnies, condoms are occasionally referred to as French letters or even Jonny’s - an affectionate play on words that further reinforces their association with sex.

Why are Condoms Called French Letters?

The term ‘French letter’ refers to 18th-century French condoms made from animal intestines. These condoms were sometimes referred to as ‘Lettres de cachet’, which literally translates as ‘letters of seal’ in English. This phrase eventually evolved into its present form - ‘French letters’ - and has been used ever since to refer to condoms.

Why are Condoms Referred to as Rubbers?

The phrase ‘rubbers’ has been around for centuries and refers to the rubber material used to make condoms. Before the advent of latex, condoms were often made from animal intestines or other natural materials like linen or lambskin. However, once rubber became available in the 19th century, it quickly replaced these materials as a more durable and reliable option.

The use of latex rubber also marked a significant turning point in condom history as it allowed people to use them without worrying about breaking or tearing - something that was not possible with earlier models. As a result, rubber-based condoms soon became known as ‘rubbers’, which is still used today when referring to condoms.

Why Are Condoms Called Sheaths?

The term ‘sheath’ is also used to refer to condoms. This phrase derives from the Latin word for case or wrap, used initially to house swords or other weapons.

In the context of condoms, this term has been adopted to describe the protective covering they provide - something that a sword’s sheath would give.

If you Google the Latin for sheath, Google translate gives you Vagina (we are not joking), so we think you can safely say the words and their meaning are closely related.

Why Do Some People Refer to Condoms as 'Something For The Weekend, Sir?'

The term 'something for the weekend' is a euphemism used by people to describe condoms. It was popularised by men in the 1950s when people began using it to ask for condoms without actually having to say the word itself.

The phrase has been around ever since and is still widely used in casual conversations and advertising campaigns, usually with humorous undertones. While this term may be amusing, it highlights an essential point about barriers - namely, that they are not just for sex but also provide protection from STIs.

Luckily today, we have online services that offer a discreet service for those who are easily embarrassed - click the link to view our entire range of condoms.

The History of Condoms Through The Ages

The history of condoms stretches back much further than John Milles’ apothecary shop in London. In fact, evidence of the first condoms dates back to Ancient Egypt, where they were crafted out of linen. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used animal intestines or bladders as a form of birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

As time progressed, so did the methods used to make condoms. By the mid-1800s, rubber had replaced sheep’s intestines as the primary material for making these items. Charles Goodyear developed a process to vulcanise rubber, thus making it more durable and easier to use in everyday life - including condom manufacture! This new technology allowed people to have safer sex without fear of breakage or leaks.

Read more about the history of condoms.

Why Do We Need Condoms?

Aside from the obvious use of condoms for contraception, they are also one of the most effective ways to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is because condoms provide a physical barrier between two people’s bodies during sexual activities. By preventing bodily fluids from passing between them, condoms reduce the chances of transmitting or contracting an STI.

In addition to protection against STIs, condoms can also help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Studies show that correct and consistent use of male and female condoms can reduce unintended pregnancy by 85%. For those who cannot or choose not to take hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, condom use is a reliable method for managing fertility.


Johnnies have been part of our culture since 17th-century London, when they were first called by their creator: John Milles. Over the centuries, our language has evolved, and ‘Johnnies’ has become colloquial for condoms. Aside from Johnnies, condoms are known as French letters or rubbers due to their composition and method of manufacture.

Regardless of what we call them, condoms remain among the most efficient ways to protect against STIs and unwanted pregnancies. By using condoms correctly and consistently, we can all enjoy a safer, healthier sex life.

Dec 28, 2022
Written by:
Victoria Walsh