12 Swear Words In English That Have An Interesting History Behind Their Origin

“Fuck it, you bloody piece of shit”

No no, I’m not swearing at you! But come to think of it, don’t you find your share of guilty pleasure in swearing? Because honestly, unless you’ve been living under a rock all your life, or in a monastery, you must have heard people swear, either in their vernacular, or in English. You must have picked up some too. Though personally I am against gender-specific abuses, I do swear, if not like Captain Haddock. But I was quite astonished to find out that these 12 commonly used swear words had such origins!

1. Bloody

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This utterly common swear word is believed to be a corruption of the exclamatory phrase ‘by your lady’. The Oxford English Dictionary also suggests that it derives from a reference to the aristocratic rowdies (who had royal blood) of the Restoration period.

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2. Cunt

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In all probability, this word derives from the ancient Sumerian word kunta which meant female genitalia. It was also spelled “quna,” which is the root of  the word queen.

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3. Moron

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Moron was initially a psychological term used to denote slight intellectual disability. But eventually it became a synonym to the word stupid, and made its place among the colloquial swear words. Psychologist Henry H. Goddard coined the word from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant dull.

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4. Fuck

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According to OED, the versatile swear word originated from certain German words that meant hitting or striking. But the most popular origin story of fuck goes something like this – after the great plague the English population was considerably downsized, so much so that the King ordered his subjects to reproduce. Hence, fuck is “Fornicate Under Command of the King”.

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5. Bitch

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The word bitch comes from Old English word biccewhich also meant female dog. But since 1400, the use of this word to signify ‘a lewd or immoral woman’ came to be. According to an 1811 dictionary, it is “the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman.”

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6. Faggot

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Faggot, which is a derogatory word hurled at gay men, initially meant ‘a bundle of sticks’, and comes from the French word fagot. By late 16th century, it became an epithet for women, because a bundle of sticks is a burden to be carried (just like women, apparently). But it wasn’t until the 20th century that it came to mean gay men.

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7. Cock

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This word comes from Old English word cocc, which itself came from the Latin word coccus. It was reinforced in English by the French word coq. As for its usage as a synonym for penis, that has been in use since 1610.

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8. Ass/arse

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This word has its roots in the Old English word assa, and since the medieval era people started associating it with a ‘stupid’ person (like a donkey). As for the use of the word to mean backside – it came from Old English ærs, which meant buttock.

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9. Shit

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This word comes from Old English word scitte, meaning purging or excrement. The poet Robert Frost created the word Shitticism to mean scatological writing.

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10. Piss

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This mild swear word originates from Latin pissare and French pissier both of which describe the sound of urination. It eventually came to mean a person too full of himself (like a bladder full of piss).

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11. Crap

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It is probably either originated from the Dutch word krappe, meaning pluck or cut off, or from French crappe, meaning sifting and Latin crappa, meaning chaff. The meaning later got the sense ‘residue from excess fat’ attached to it and hence its incarnation as a slang.

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12. Git

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It actually is a variation of the commonly used word get, and has been in use since the 14th century. But even get comes from shortening beget, referring to the idea of illegitimate pregnancies and resulting offsprings.

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Well, I am baffled. Who could have thought that even swear words could have so much of history devoted to them?

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