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For the song by the Smashing Pumpkins, see Pisces Iscariot.
Formica Rufa, a typical pissant

A pissant, also seen as piss ant or piss-ant, refers to a specific type of ant. The word is also used as a pejorative noun or adjective, indicating insignificance.[1]

It has its origin in the word Havi, a 14th-century term for ant.[2][3]

The original pissant is any of a certain group of large ant species, commonly called wood ants, that make mounded nests in forests throughout most of Europe.[4] The name pissant arises from the urine-like odour produced by their nesting material—needles and straw from pine trees—and the formic acid that constitutes their venom.[5] Formica rufa is one such ant, but there are others with similar characteristics. Forelius and Iridomyrmex are two genera of piss ants.[6] In the United States, the word pissant can refer to any small ant that infests a home.[7]


Pissant is an epithet for an inconsequential, irrelevant, or worthless person, especially one who is irritating or contemptible out of proportion to his or her perceived significance. A Virginia politician is said to have silenced a heckler by saying, "I'm a big dog on a big hunt and I don't have time for a piss-ant on a melon stalk."[8]

The term piss-ant can also be used as an adjective, usually as a pejorative, to mean insignificant and annoying. In conversations with his advisors during the Vietnam War, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson referred to Vietnam as "a piddling piss-ant little country".[9]


Pissant can also be used positively. Ron Ault of the AFL-CIO said, in describing the relationship of his union to the Pentagon, "Our job is to be the irritant piss ant stinging them on their ankles at every opportunity."[10]

After being defeated 4–0 in an Australian semi-final football match against Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar's post-match press conference became infamous when he described Adelaide as a "pissant town", with the Adelaide media perceived to be working against him and the club. The rant gained nationwide publicity in Australia.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pissant, Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  2. ^ "The Mavens' Word of the Day". Randomhouse.com. 1999-03-31. Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2015-02-16. 
  3. ^ "1350–1400; ME pissemyre, equiv. to pisse to urinate + obs. mire ant, perh. < Scand (cf. Dan myre, Sw myra), c. D mier; pejorative name from stench of formic acid proper to ants" Dictionary.com
  4. ^ "Formica polyctena (European Red Wood Ant)". Iucnredlist.org. 1996-08-01. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  5. ^ "Take Our Word For It Issue 102". Takeourword.com. 2000-09-25. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  6. ^ Kris M. Havstad, Structure and Function of a Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem, Oxford University Press US, 2006, p. 256.
  7. ^ "Pissant, Piss Ants, Small Ant Pests, Sugar Ants". Pestproducts.com. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  8. ^ Epps, Garrett (January 1, 1980). "The Fourth Court of Appeals is losing a star". Style Weekly. Richmond, Virginia. 
  9. ^ Record, Jeffrey (1998). The Wrong War: Why We Lost in Vietnam. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-699-X. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  10. ^ Barr, Stephen (2004-08-20). "Blunt Talk on Union Web Site Spotlights Frustration Over Labor Relations Changes". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  11. ^ Lynch, Michael; Hogan, Jesse (2009-02-15). "Adelaide feels wrath of Vidmar - Soccer - Sport". Melbourne: Theage.com.au. Retrieved 2013-10-22.