The History of Insults and Insulting Names


Definition: one that tattles

History: 1481, "to stammer, prattle," in Caxton's translation of "Reynard the Fox," probably from M.Flem. tatelen "to stutter," parallel to M.Du., M.L.G., E.Fris. tateren "to chatter, babble," possibly of imitative origin. The meaning "tell tales or secrets" is first recorded 1581. Sense influenced by tittle. Tattletale formed in Eng. 1888, probably patterned on telltale (1548).


Definition: an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person ; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits

1951, U.S. student slang, probably an alteration of 1940s slang nert "stupid or crazy person," itself an alteration of nut. The word turns up in a Dr. Seuss book from 1950 ("If I Ran the Zoo"), which may have contributed to its rise. Adjective nerdy is from 1978.


Definition: an unattractive, insignificant, or inept person

History: 1968, U.S. college student slang, probably a variant of feeb "feeble person."


Definition: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked

History: "sideshow freak," 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck "a fool, dupe, simpleton" (1515), apparently from Low Ger. geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Gmc. and Scand. meaning "to croak, cackle," and also "to mock, cheat."


Definition: a: an annoyingly stupid or foolish person b: an unlikable person ; especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded

History: 1935, "tedious and ineffectual person," Amer.Eng. carnival slang, perhaps from jerkwater town (1878), where a steam locomotive crew had to take on boiler water from a trough or a creek because there was no water tank. This led 1890s to an adj. use of jerk as "inferior, insignificant."


Definition: a foolish or stupid person

History: c.1300, "person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning," from O.Fr. idiote "uneducated or ignorant person," from L. idiota "ordinary person, layman," in L.L. "uneducated or ignorant person," from Gk. idiotes "layman, person lacking professional skill," lit. "private person," used patronizingly for "ignorant person," from idios "one's own"

Middle English, from Anglo-French ydiote, from Latin idiota ignorant person, from Greek idiōtēs one in a private station, layman, ignorant person, from idios one's own, private; akin to Latin suus one's own — more at suicide
Date: 14th century


Definition: Wimp

History: 1982, from wussy (1960s), probably an alteration of pussy (2).
Mike Damone: You are a wuss: part wimp, and part pussy
["Fast Times at Ridgemont High" script, 1982]


Definition: ausually disparaging : a weak or effeminate man or boy busually disparaging : a male homosexual

History: c.1450, from M.Fr. pensée "a pansy," lit. "thought, remembrance," from fem. pp. of penser "to think," from L. pensare "consider," freq. of pendere "to weigh" (see pensive). So called because it was regarded as a symbol of thought or remembrance. Meaning "effeminate homosexual man" is first recorded 1929.

Middle English pancy, pensee, from Middle French pensée, from pensée thought, from feminine of pensé, past participle of penser to think, from Latin pensare to ponder
Date: 15th century


Definition: a stupid, incompetent, or foolish person

History: student slang, "dolt, idiot, nerd," by 1960s. "Dictionary of American Slang" says "probably related to doo-doo and goofus," which isn't very helpful.


Definition: idiot, jerk

History: "great hunter," 1712, in ref. to the biblical son of Cush, referred to (Gen. x.8-9) as "a mighty hunter before the Lord." It came to mean "geek, klutz" by 1983 in teenager slang, for unknown reasons. (Amateur theories include its occasional use in "Bugs Bunny" cartoon episodes featuring rabbit-hunting Elmer Fudd as a foil; its possible ironic use, among hunters, for a clumsy member of their fraternity; or a stereotype of deer hunters by the non-hunting population in the U.S.)


Definition: jerk, dolt

History: 1940s, "masturbator," British slang, from wank "to masturbate," of unknown origin. General sense of "contemptible person" is attested from 1972. Cf. sense evolution of jerk (n.).


Definition: a: slow of mind : obtuse b: given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner c: lacking intelligence or reason : brutish

History: 1541, "mentally slow," from M.Fr. stupide, from L. stupidus "amazed, confounded," lit. "struck senseless," from stupere "be stunned, amazed, confounded," from PIE *(s)tupe- "hit," from base *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)). Native words for this idea include negative compounds with words for "wise" (cf. O.E. unwis, unsnotor, ungleaw), also dol (from root of Ger. toll "mad," related to Gk. tholeros "muddy, turbid"), and dysig (see dizzy). Stupid retained its association with stupor and its overtones of "stunned by surprise, grief, etc." into mid-18c. The difference between stupid and the less opprobrious foolish roughly parallels that of Ger. töricht vs. dumm but does not exist in most European languages.

Middle French stupide, from Latin stupidus, from stupēre to be numb, be astonished
Date: 1541


Definition: a: lacking intelligence : stupid b: showing a lack of intelligence

History: O.E. dumb "silent, unable to speak," from PIE *dheubh- "confusion, stupefaction, dizziness." O.E., Goth. (thumb) and O.N. (dumbr) forms meant only "mute, speechless;" in O.H.G. (thumb) it meant both this and "stupid," and in Mod.Ger. this latter became the only sense. Meaning "foolish, ignorant" was occasionally in Eng. from c.1323, but modern use (1823) comes from infl. of Ger. dumm.

Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German tumb mute
Date: before 12th century


Definition: one who is inept : klutz

History: 1753, from L. spasticus, from Gk. spastikos "afflicted with spasms," lit. "drawing, pulling," from span "draw up" (see spasm). The noun meaning "a person affected with spastic paralysis" is attested from 1896; derogatory slang shortening spaz first recorded 1965.


Definition: stupid, idiot

History: 1426, "fact or action of making slower in movement or time," from L. retardationem, from retardare "to make slow, delay, keep back, hinder," from re-, intensive prefix, + tardare "to slow" (see tardy). Retarded "mentally slow" first recorded 1895. Retard (v.) first recorded 1489, from O.Fr. retarder (13c.); offensive noun meaning "stupid person" (with accent on first syllable) is from 1960s slang.



  1. Should include moron, one of my faves.

  2. Wuss is a welsh word, actually. Not related to pussy at all

  3. How about including douche bag. Definition one gets on a website and corrects the author or a piece about word origins. See above.

  4. 'nimrod' As a disparagement it seems to be very much a US term. In the UK we had till very recently the nimrod reconaisance aircraft : ~~~~~~~~ and of course there is the famous musical piece by Elgar : ~~~~~~
    I think gives a good reasoning for its use now.

  5. Pansy has nothing to do with the little fragile flower?