Bodice Ripper – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a word to describe the genre of books focusing on women’s romance stories? You can call these novels “bodice rippers.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “bodice ripper” describes a genre of novels that focus on romantic stories for women. The 80s saw a boom in these types of books, leading to the rise of popular writers like Danielle Steele and the mills & Boon” series.

The “bodice ripper” offers the reader a sexually-suggestive story, usually in a historical setting. The plot of the novel usually involves a man seducing the story’s heroine. The genre remains incredibly popular with women, but most men don’t know about these types of books and that they have an entire subculture around them.

The bodice ripper is an easy-to-read novel that allows the reader to use their imagination to place themselves in the stead of the heroine in the story. It’s a form of sexual fantasy that is over 50-years old.

Example Usage

“I just finished Danelle Steele’s new book. It’s a real bodice ripper, and I couldn’t put it down. I love her style of writing.”

“The bodice ripper genre is so addictive to read. The stories wrap you up in the character’s mind, and the pages just turn by themselves.”

“That book was a real bodice ripper. It reminds me of the old Mills & Boon series I used to read as a girl.”

“Once I get into a good bodice ripper, that’s it. I just sit around the house for the whole day until I finish it. I have to know how the story ends.”

“I’m thinking about Candice a book for her birthday. I heard she likes bodice rippers. Do you have any recommendations on authors she’ll like?”

“Honestly, the way women get so involved in bodice ripper novels is beyond me. But I guess men will never understand that part of woman’s psychology.”

“I write in the bodice ripper genre. The fans are so demanding, and it’s vital that I keep my creative juices flowing for new book ideas.”


The expression “bodice ripper” originates from the genre of books written by romantic novelists like Emily Bronte and Jane Austen. The term itself is American slang, and the first known written recording of its use in print comes from The Chicago Tribune, from an article published in February 1978, where it appears as follows.

“Publishers call them hot historicals, as opposed to either the virginal variety Barbara Cartland writes or to the bodice rippers “because that’s what usually happens to the heroines.”

The expression caught on in the 1980s, appearing in several renowned US publications. The Syracuse Herald-Journal, a New York newspaper, published the following in 1983 in an article talking about the author, Danielle Steele.

“I think of romance novels as kind of bodice rippers, Steele says.”

Phrases Similar to Bodice Ripper

  • Mills & Boons.

Phrases Opposite to Bodice Ripper

  • Action.
  • Comedy.
  • Horror.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Bodice ripper.

Ways People May Say Bodice Ripper Incorrectly

It’s common for people to think this phrase has something to do with the English serial killer, Jack the Ripper. However, the two are very different and have different meanings. A bodice ripper has nothing to do with the act of ripping anything.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Bodice Ripper

You can use the phrase “bodice ripper” to describe books like the “mills & Boon” series and novels written by Danielle Steele. These stories all involve a heroine that succumbs to her lust for a strong male character. The phrase suits social use when describing books and people’s behavior.

You can use it to describe someone’s real-world behavior of lusting after someone she can’t have, or you could use it to describe a book you just read with the bodice ripper theme. Many men who don’t know the genre won’t understand what the phrase means.

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