Any online glossary you read will differ slightly on the meanings of certain terms.

As a bondage fetishist, you will probably also notice a difference in what terms mean to you, as opposed to what they mean to other types of fetishists.


This is the most comprehensive term for the world of fetish play, though it does miss a few individual categories: some fetish acts do not assign a top or bottom role.


This refers to play of physical restraint plus application of physical or mental stimulation or duress. BONDAGE and DISCIPLINE can be separate! Don't use the term BD and lump them together unless you do mean both.


Original meaning: a person interested in application of pain, or receipt of pain.
The term then widened to refer to play which stimulates the senses in any unusual way. This stage also saw the term sometimes being called Sex Magic.
The term is now being loosely applied to all players and fetishists, which I think is an unfair overgeneralization. (I've seen SM writers lump all sexual variations as "SM". For a basic foot fetishist, it is erasure to be labeled as an SM player.) However, the culture trend right now is making "SM" the umbrella term. I've noticed it's mostly actual SM players who are pushing this label to cover all types of players and fetishists.


BDSM = all of the above
An umbrella term that is growing in popularity.  Unfortunately, it doesn't exactly include pure object fetishists.


A person who regards an object or body part as sexual. Psychology's hard line states that a true fetishist is one who can't achieve sexual gratification unless they involve their fetish -- but psychologists seem to only meet that .0005%; most of the fetishists I've known were also able to enjoy themselves without involving their fetish every time.
I tend to overuse the term "fetishist" to refer to many sexual variations. Many people tell me I shouldn't refer to myself as a "bondage fetishist." But "bondagist" sounds goofy.



There are many related terms for the complementary roles of D/s. Taken narrowly, these terms usually refer to the role or actions engaged in DURING PLAY; most people do not behave submissively or dominantly 24 hours a day. No one term covers all people satisfactorily, and in particular, many of these labels translate poorly for bondage players. For example, if Jon pretends to be a burglar and he grabs and ties me up, he would be taking a dominant role, but if I resist and enjoy struggling against him, I'm not really being "submissive."

Here are rough translations of the paired terms, though you'll find other explanations that differ:

Dominant & submissive. Noun and/or verb. "I am a Dominant person and my submissive relinquishes control to me." "I feel like being dominant tonight."

Dominate & submit. Action. "I would like to dominate you, will you submit?" (Dominate is NOT A NOUN. You are not "a dominate male.")

Master & slave (Mistress & slave). Roles. Each person takes on a fantasy of sexual identity. This is usually temporary and only lasts as long as the scene does. There are very few people who stay in these roles all the time.

Top & bottom. Noun and/or verb. This refers to activities more than roles, since some people like to do D/s actions without assumption of roles or one person playing submission. The Top is the person administering the scene, the bottom receives it. The terms do not literally mean being on top or lying on the bottom, nor having things done to a butt. However, the term sounds confusing in spanking, because the bottom is indeed getting things done to his/her bottom. Used as verbs: "I would like to top you. Do you like to bottom?"

Captor & captive. Noun. You'll rarely see these terms used except in the bondage sub-culture. "Captive" is a particularly useful term for bondagers because it encompasses scenes where the bottom is not submissive, they are resisting or playing a non-compliant role. Some players use the word victim instead; the only reason I use that less frequently is, in mainstream culture it describes someone who has actually been harmed by a power-loss experience.

Active & passive. Verb. Very general terms for play, and can be occasionally used if you're not sure whether someone considers themselves a top, or a dominant. Still, exceptions blur these terms. In most play, the active person is the top, but there are also scenes where the bottom is the one being physically active, such as a servant bringing things to the Mistress.


A philosophically and sociologically loaded term, usually meant to be a negative label. Narrowly speaking, it's a bottom who is disrupting the scene by trying to over-control the top. However, some tops take this to mean that bottoms should just shut up and put up with whatever happens. A bottom should be able, at any time, to negotiate the scene, re-negotiate the scene, or volunteer information if something is going wrong. Beyond that, there is a range of play styles; some tops like you to tell them what you like all the way through the scene.


There is a convention in the D/s Scene that Tops -- both roles and names -- begin with a capital letter, and bottoms -- both roles and names -- begin with a lower case letter. In the most casual form, this would translate to, "Hello, my name is Mistress Vanessa and this is my slave tim." The most formal players would write this as "Hello, My name is Vanessa and this is My slave tim."
You don't have to follow this convention for your own name, role, or writings unless you wish to. The general etiquette is to address people the way they like to be addressed. This doesn't mean, however, that you must call a stranger "Master Charles" when you're not his own sub. I would call such a person Charles.


A word, sound or motion that communicates a need to change something in the scene. A safeword is not exactly needed if you're playing a scene sans role, because in that context you can just tell the partner what they need to know. However, if you're going into role and don't want to leave role to discuss adjustments, or if you'll be gagged and can't communicate clearly, decide on a safeword (or several) before beginning a scene. Common safewords are "red" and the word "safeword." My safeword is barking through my gag.
People use safewords differently. For some, the use of a safeword means "stop the scene immediately." For others, it simply means something needs adjustment. My barking safeword means that I need the top to ask me what's wrong (he might have to take out the gag to find out). Be sure you let other players know what they should do if a safeword is used.


A person who participates in a scene, scenes, or fetish activities.


A person who likes dressing in fetish wear or leather, and might be mistaken for a player, but their actual fetish is the dressing. Don't take it seriously if you hear people criticizing dressers for not playing; we don't all have to be players!


A scene is a time period during which D/s play occurs. You can use this term to refer to a certain act, or to the entire time that you stay in play mode. If I get grabbed & hogtied, then chair-tied, then spread-eagled, I can either refer to it as 3 bondage scenes or one long roleplay scene.

Variant term for the ongoing scene. "They were 'in scene' so they didn't notice the rest of us staring."

The Scene is used to refer to a community, subculture, play group, club, the internet fet subculture, etc. It all depends on which "The Scene" you're talking about. If I'm conversing with a friend about "The Scene," they will know which one I'm referring to by the content. For instance:

"The [Los Angeles] Scene has a lot of good membership clubs, but it could use some public clubs like New York has."

"The [online Bondage] Scene is really vast, with a lot of good websites and chatrooms and people, but it's hard to track everything down because of all those SM sites that call themselves Bondage."

"The [play] Scene has been really dead lately, I can't find any good play parties to go to."

"The [international] Scene is slowly becoming more connected and communicative, thanks mostly to the Internet."

You'll sometimes hear people refer to The Community instead of The Scene. "Community" tends to emphasize organizations, information structures and emotional support, while "Scene" tends to emphasize play and socializing that is play-directed.


These terms are mixed too loosely for my taste. If you're the only one in your community who does bondage, the other players might think you're amazing and call you a bondagemaster. But here's a hint: if your non-bondage friends say you're a bondagemaster, and you call yourself a bondagemaster, but you've never heard one of your captives identify you as a bondagemaster (of their own volition), then... you're actually a bondager, not a master. You need to start asking your subjects what you could be doing better.
Variation: ropemaster.