AskDefine | Define insult

Dictionary Definition



1 a rude expression intended to offend or hurt; "when a student made a stupid mistake he spared them no abuse"; "they yelled insults at the visiting team" [syn: abuse, revilement, contumely, vilification]
2 a deliberately offensive act or something producing the effect of an affront; "turning his back on me was a deliberate insult" [syn: affront] v : treat, mention, or speak to rudely; "He insulted her with his rude remarks"; "the student who had betrayed his classmate was dissed by everyone" [syn: diss, affront]

User Contributed Dictionary



insultare, to jump at, from salire, to jump


  • (verb): ĭnsŭlt', /ɪnˈsʌlt/, /In"sVlt/
  • (noun): ĭn'sŭlt, /ˈɪnsʌlt/, /"InsVlt/
    Rhymes: -ʌlt


  1. To offend someone by being rude, insensitive or insolent
  2. To demean or affront



to offend
  • Czech: urazit
  • French: insulter
  • German: beleidigen
  • Italian: offendere, insultare
  • Romanian: jigni
  • Spanish: insultar


  1. An action or form of speech deliberately intended to be rude.
  2. Anything that causes offence/offense by being of an unacceptable quality.
    The way the orchestra performed tonight was an insult to my ears.



action or speech deliberately intended to be rude
  • German: Beleidigung
  • Korean: 모욕
  • Latin: maledictum
  • Polish: zniewaga
anything that causes offence/offense by being of an unacceptable quality
  • German: Beleidigung
to be checked

Related terms

Extensive Definition

An insult (also called putdown) is an expression, statement or behavior that is considered offensive, rude or degrading. Insults may be intentional or accidental. An example of the latter is a well-intended simple explanation, which in fact is superfluous, but is given due to underestimating intelligence or knowledge of the other. This practice is also called flouting.
Whether speech or behavior is insulting, in practice and sometimes by the terms of local assault statutes, is often a product of the subjective sense of the person insulted. But insults to one person who might not mind the derogatory speech may indirectly insult others. Many states and local municipalities enforce prohibitions against rude, offensive or insulting speech, leaving citizens, law enforcement officers and courts to decide what is and what is not an insult. The concept of fighting words as a form of prohibited speech has developed in the jurisprudence of U.S. constitutional law concerning terms of disparagement. But insults offered as satire in an artistic venue, such as a novel, a film or a song, are usually regarded as protected speech, especially in the United States.
The role of insults in the social sense may be better understood by an appreciation of how the term is used in a medical setting. Though a popular idiom refers to "adding insult to injury," in a medical context they are the same. Physicians examine injuries resulting from an insult to flesh and bones, caused by various traumatic events. In speech and in social settings, insults are words that tend to injure the psyche. In humor, insults may be exchanged in much the way fighters exchange blows in training, to develop a resistance to the pain of mild injuries, or to spar with no real intention of seriously injuring the other.

Types of insults

Behavioral insults

Insults are not limited to words. Behavioral expectations create boundaries that, when crossed, can be the substance of insults. A guest who wears casual clothing to a formal event might offend the host of a party. At times the casual wearing of military garb has been seen or intended as an insult to the uniform. The deliberate adoption of some affectation, mannerism, or clothing may be used as a deliberate insult. Misuse of flags, especially burning a national flag, can be used as an insult (but can also be a political statement).

Verbal insults

Profanity is frequently used as part of insults to strengthen their emotional impact. Some body parts, although useful, may be of low esteem; the word may then be used as insult. For example, the word asshole (or arsehole) is used to imply disapproval for the behavior or morals of another, but tends to imply the behavior resulted from a character flaw.
The examination of insulting language reveals the tensions between social classes and ethnic groups in modern society, where expectations are sometimes viewed as insulting by some and failure to comply with those expectations being seen as insulting by others.

Categories of insults

Higher level insults (or: The art of verbal abuse)

Disguised insult

E.g. as an apology after a previous insult: "I'm sorry Sir, I didn't think you could be insulted."
This implies that you're thinking that no matter how bad a thing anyone could say to him, surely it would not be an insult to him. Thus this apology constitutes in effect an insult.

Perceptions of insults

Sociologists suggest insults are often an indicator of flawed reasoning about the character or motivation of others. Though insults are common, and often used in jest, a fundamental axiom of sociology recognizes that derogatory forms of speech make erroneous attributions about the motivation of a person. Scholars classify the erroneous assumptions as the fundamental attribution error.

Cultural perceptions

Perceptions of insulting language often vary, and often depend on the context and persons involved as much as the actual words. For example, in 21st century America, African American descendants of former slaves hold mixed views of the term "nigger", sometimes using it as a rugged form of mutual affection in popular culture, but resenting the term when used in pejorative sense, especially when spoken by members of other ethnic groups. Other African-Americans take offense at any use of the term even between friends, holding that even though it is shared affectionately perhaps as a sign of strength, it acts as a term of mutual degradation, and inevitably serves to degrade African-Americans in general. Another example would be reference (even in a joke) to stereotypical aspects of a person, for example jokingly linking a person's Jewishness with a joke about money, a person's Pole nationality with their intelligence, or making a joke about how feminine or "gay" someone is with a French joke.

See also

insult in German: Beleidigung
insult in Esperanto: Insulto
insult in Spanish: Insulto
insult in French: Insulte
insult in Japanese: 侮蔑
insult in Lithuanian: Insultas
insult in Dutch: Belediging
insult in Portuguese: Insulto
insult in Quechua: K'amiy
insult in Russian: Оскорбление
insult in Simple English: Insult
insult in Swedish: Förolämpning
insult in Turkish: Küfür (söz)
insult in Yiddish: באליידיגונג

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abase, abuse, affront, airs, arrogance, asperse, aspersion, atrocity, barb, be above, be contemptuous of, brickbat, call names, care nothing for, clannishness, cliquishness, contemn, contempt, contemptuousness, contumely, cut, debase, defamation, defame, degrade, deride, despise, despite, dig, discourtesy, disdain, disdainfulness, disgrace, dishonor, disoblige, disparage, disparagement, disprize, dump, dump on, enormity, exclusiveness, feel contempt for, feel superior to, fleer, fleer at, flout, flouting, gibe, gibe at, gird, give offense to, hauteur, hold beneath one, hold cheap, hold in contempt, humble, humiliate, humiliation, hurl a brickbat, ignominy, indignity, injure, injury, insolence, invective, jeer, jeer at, jeering, jibe at, libel, look down upon, misprize, mock, mockery, obloquy, offend, offense, opprobrium, outrage, put down, put-down, rank low, ridicule, rump, scoff, scoff at, scorn, scornfulness, scurrility, set at naught, shame, slander, slap, slight, slur, sneer, sneer at, sneeze at, sniff at, sniffiness, snobbishness, snootiness, snort at, snottiness, sovereign contempt, superciliousness, taunt, think nothing of, toploftiness, treat with indignity, uncomplimentary remark, vituperation
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1