Swear words seem to be deeply ingrained into human language and can be heard on the street, TV, in casual conversations as well as a ton of other places. You might be surprised to learn that swear words have been around for centuries and the impact of certain words has evolved to varying degrees throughout the ages. Swear words come from the limbic system in the right hemisphere of your brain, which helps you express your emotions. You might be wondering when exactly swear words came into being? We’ve done the research for you and have outlined a brief history of swear words below.
The F Word
The origins of fuck are somewhat muddy, but were first recorded during the 1500s. Profanity and vulgar words weren’t written down that often in the early days. Fuck comes from the ancient root meaning “to strike,” which can be traced back to the Dutch word fokken and the German language as well. In German, fickin meant to fuck while fokken meant to breed in Dutch. The word can be used to refer to sexual intercourse or express deep frustration or anger. People use fuck in a variety of ways as a noun, a verb, and even an interjection.
The word asshole can be traced back to the 1800s. An earlier form of the word arshole and arse were recorded in the 1400s. During the 1950s, asshole was used to refer to a contemptible person. This modern-day meaning still applies and holds true whenever people use it. Arse was first used as nautical slang back in 1860. People use it in a variety of ways such as working one’s ass off, referring to someone as rude, and even an idiot who needs to pull their head out of their own asshole.
The word shit can be traced back to the 1500s, when people used this word to describe an offensive and despicable person. This would oftentimes refer to a man, and comes from the Old English word scite, which was a neutral word for diarrhea. In the 1800s, the word began to evolve and referred to anything regarded as worthless. Overtime this word became super popular and turned into a fun word you can use in a variety of forms and fashions such as shit happens, shit sandwich, shit ton, and more.
The word motherfucker can be traced back to the 1900s when it was originally recorded during an 1889 case at the Texas Court of Appeals. A witness referred to the defendant as “that Goddamned motherfucking, bastardly son of a bitch” and motherfucking was censored in the official transcript. In World War II, motherfucker grew in popularity and became a way to refer to someone or something as irritating or ruthless. The word changed during the 1950s, where it described someone as “formidable, strong, or otherwise admirable.” Miles Davis even complimented fellow musicians by calling them a motherfucker.
Another swear word that a large amount of people use is the Spanish word pendejo. Pendejo meaning can be confusing since the word has evolved throughout the ages. Pendejo means pubic hair and can be traced back to the 16th century in Spain, used to describe teenagers who believed they were adults before their time. In the 17th century, pendejo changed and referred to someone as a coward. In the early 1900s, pendejo was used to insult someone whom you would consider dumb or stupid in the Americas after colonization and conquest. It’s an offensive word that should be used carefully but can also be used in a joking manner among friends and loved ones.
The word piss isn’t that offensive, but some people still turn their heads in disgust at the mere mention of this swear word. The word piss can be traced back to 1250 to 1300 and has roots in French. The French word pissier was meant to capture the sound of peeing. During World War II, it became an intensifier such as piss-poor or piss-ugly. Today, the word refers to being angry, a joke, or literally using the restroom.
Swear may be frowned upon, but according to science, using swear words points to verbal fluency, openness, and honesty. A lot of words such as bugger, bumfiddle, crupper are all old swear words that have fallen out of favor are rarely used today. Fart is one of the earliest swear words that can be traced back to 1250 and a lot of swear words we use today can be traced back to the 1500s. The F-word and shit came to fruition in the 1500s while asshole can be traced back to the 1800s. Motherfucker was first used in the 1800s during a court case while Pendejo had a totally different meaning in the 16th century. Piss used to imitate the sound of peeing, but has evolved as well. All of these words highlighted above have gone through various changes throughout the centuries, but swear words in general seem like they’ll never fall out of favor are here to stay.