Skip to content

Why Is Shit a Bad Word?

July 14, 2016
Shit might be a bad word, but nobody's bothered by a turd.

Shit might be a bad word, but nobody’s bothered by a turd.

Most people don’t want to think about shit.  It’s kind of gross.  Some people might be fascinated with their own, but almost everybody is disgusted by other people’s.  Even though shit might be natural and necessary, it’s still gross.

People don’t like to think about shit, but we’re not supposed to say it either.  The word shit is considered rude and improper among most people.  If you’re a kid, you get in trouble for saying it.  If you’re an adult and you say shit in public, people look at you funny.

I have to admit, “Shit!” feels good to say.  When I crack my head against the cabinet, or hammer a nail into my thumb, or forget my wallet and don’t realize it until I’m at the airport, yelling “Shit!” always makes me feel better.  It’s my favorite profanity.  It’s not as bad as f#ck or modgammit, but it’s bad enough to get self-satisfaction from yelling it.

The word shit has a couple things working against it to make it a bad word.  Shit is a body function, and in much of society, it’s rude to discuss such things.  A lot of profanity comes from body parts and body functions that people aren’t supposed to talk about, and shit fits that profile.

Plus, shit is one syllable.  It’s okay to say the word defecate.  It’s okay to say defecation.  Those words are technical and multi-syllabic, so it’s sophisticated to use that terminology.  But shit is a one-syllable body function, and that often makes a word considered inappropriate.  That’s why it’s okay to say defection but not shit.  If I hit my head against the cabinet and yell out “Defecation!” I get no satisfaction from it.

A lot of people don’t know the word shit has a history.

Shit was from the Old English word scite and the Old English scītan which mean “to defecate” and is traced back to the early-to-mid 1500s.  Shit isn’t ancient like Greek Mythology, but it’s as old as Shakespeare, so it’s kind of old.  It’s not like some guy in the 1900s made up a new word and it suddenly became profane.

Shit has been around for a few centuries as a low-class word, and it’s earned its status.  For centuries, the word shit has been uttered in anger, pain, frustration, and other various forms of negative emotions.

There are several alternatives to shitPoop is not profanity, even though it means the same thing as shit and is only one syllable.  Poop is cute, much too cute to be profane.

Shucks is a better alternative because it starts the same way as shit and almost rhymes with f#ck, the ultimate profanity, but it doesn’t have the same meaning as shit.

Crap is the best alternative because it’s one syllable, and it’s not a bad word, but people think it is.  So if you want to be thought of as a rebel but still want to conform to social norms, use crap.

There are numerous variations of the word shitShit is usually a noun because it’s a thing, but shitty is an adjective because the word shitty is usually used to describe a noun.  For example, some readers might think this was a shitty topic for a blog post.

There are also a bunch of common phrases and terms that use variations of shit.

“You don’t know shit.” – That’s an insult because everybody knows what shit is, and it implies that you’re so stupid that you don’t know something that EVERYBODY knows.  It’s almost as bad as “You know nothing.”

“Piece of shit”- That’s an insult because shit is pretty low on the totem pole of status, and you’re not even complete shit; you’re merely a fraction of shit.

“You shit head.”- That means that your brain is made of shit (you’re stupid), and since you’re whole head is shit, your breath is probably bad too.

“I’m gonna beat the shit out of you.”- You’ll be pummeled so much that you shall lose control of your bowels.  You will probably urinate on yourself too, but that’s implied.

“Talking shit”- What you’re saying has no positive or productive value whatsoever.  In fact, what you’re saying is quite negative.


When I write about profanity, I usually replace a vowel with a sign, like sh#t or f#ck, but I might stop doing that.  I’ve been censoring my own blog because I know that sometimes kids might read it.  However, I’ve seen what my daughters watch on YouTube, and I think I’ll stop censoring myself.  At least when I use profanity, I use it responsibly.


What do you think?  What is the best alternative to the word shit?  Should a family-friendly blog use symbols as a form of self-censorship, or should I go ahead and spell out the profanity?  What variation of the word shit do you like the best?


Hey, look what I’ve finally done after ten years of blogging: I’ve written a novel!

An English teacher obsessed with grammar meets a woman who pretends to read classic literature.  And thus begins the whirlwind romance of the 1990s!

Please support the Kickstarter campaign for The Sunset Rises: A 1990s Romantic Comedy and get a signed copy before the novel is available to the public!

From → Etymology

  1. glad the image isn’t a gif.

  2. Loved the read it reminded me of the first day of one of my sociology classes. What you did was disrupt social norms and I commend you for doing so.

  3. I use ‘poo’ when I’m trying to tone it down a notch, but usually shit and shite are a big part of my writing vocabulary!

  4. When my characters use profanity, they speak Latin. Admit it: “merda” is better to yell than “shit”!

  5. Go ahead and say what you mean. The worst is when someone says, “Oh … sugar!” when, of course, what they mean is “Oh SHIT!”

  6. Ann permalink

    I think the symbols are good. Definitely leave em in. I shall do the same the next time I wanna know about why sh#t is a bad word!😁

  7. Jim permalink

    Thank you for censoring your blog.
    I’m bombarded by foul language and find it refreshing your morality is exercised.
    I’m sorry your children are exposed to poor viewing choices online.
    Still you set the better example!
    My father in law firmly expresses that s**t is not a curse word because he is surrounded by its use, but popularity should not mean conformity.

  8. Anonymous permalink

    OH shit! (Lol)

  9. Anonymous permalink

    I use shit in my daily life though it is the only swear word I use and it is the least bad swear word. I dont use Fuck or bitch or those words. Sorry for not putting the # you sensitive kids.

  10. Dennis permalink

    The word “shit” was originally an acronym for “ship high in transit”. It was to ensure foul smelling crates didn’t contaminate more valuable crates above it with rising and escaping odours.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: