Slapping (strike)

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Man being slapped
John Wayne slapping Robert Stack in the 1954 film The High and the Mighty.

Slapping or smacking is striking a person with the open palm of the hand, in a movement known as a slap or smack.[1][2] A backhand uses the back of the hand instead of the palm.

Etymology and definitions[edit]

The word slap was first recorded in 1632, probably as a form of onomatopoeia.[3] It shares its beginning consonants with several other English words related to violence, such as "slash", "slay", and "slam".[4] The word is found in several English colloquialisms, such as, "slap fight", "slap-happy", "slapshot", "slapstick", "slap on the wrist" (as a mild punishment), "slap in the face" (as an insult or, alternatively, as a reproof against a lewd or insulting comment), and "slap on the back" (an expression of friendship or congratulations).

In music[edit]

In jazz and other styles of music, the term refers to the action of pulling an instrument's strings back and allowing them to smack the instrument.

Bitch slap[edit]

"Bitch slap" is slang phrase that dates back to the 1990s.[5] It means to slap someone to express dominance, contempt, or disrespect.[6][7]

Happy slapping[edit]

For about five years beginning in 2004, happy slapping became a UK fad. Happy slapping is the phenomenon whereby kids assault someone while being taped by a friend on their mobile phone: afterwards the video is uploaded to a site like YouTube.[8][9][10] Media coverage of the alleged trend led to a nationwide moral panic, including a call by one member of parliament for schools to block mobile phone signals.[11]

Usage and meaning[edit]

The purpose of a slap is often to humiliate, more than injure. A "slap in the face" is a common idiom, dating back to the late 1800s, that means to rebuke, rebuff or insult.[12]

In his 2004 text The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body, anthropologist Desmond Morris defines what he calls the "cheek slap," which he describes as "the classic action of a lady responding to the unwelcome attentions of a male." Morris categorizes the cheek slap as a "display blow", meaning one that is impossible to ignore but doesn't cause much damage.[13]

The word "slap" is frequently used to minimize the perceived violence of an act, even if the act was especially severe. One person may hit another across the face and injure them severely, but in calling it a slap, it may seem less severe, since slapping is often associated with minor violence.[14][15]

Cultural aspects[edit]

Slapping is viewed differently by different cultures. In many countries, such as Iceland, slapping a child is viewed as a form of physical abuse, and is illegal (see corporal punishment of children), whereas in others, such as England, it is seen by only some parents as abusive, and even then only moderately so.[16] The slapping of children in England and Northern Ireland remains legal as of 2023, despite being illegal in the two other UK constituent countries of Scotland (since 2020) and Wales (since 2022).

In some cultures,[which?] when girls menstruate for the first time, their mothers often slap them across the face, a cultural tradition thought by some to signify the difficulties of life as a woman.[17][18][19]

Studies have shown that although Americans frown upon domestic violence regardless of whether the perpetrator is male or female, generally they are more accepting of minor violence, such as slapping, when it is perpetrated by a woman against a man or vice versa. Women who inflict minor acts of violence on their male partners have a higher-than-normal probability of being severely assaulted by those partners, and domestic violence experts therefore advise at-risk women to refrain from even minor acts of physical aggression against their partners.[20] It has been suggested by Michael Lamb that both men and women who are violent toward their spouses are more likely to be so with their children as well.[21]

In India, the "insult slap" is a political maneuver used to express disapproval of ideas of a particular public figure or politician.[22]

Slapping is very often portrayed in films and television programs. For example, in Slap Her... She's French girls and women typically slap boys, men and other females who offend them in some way and humiliate them.

As a combat sport[edit]

In the 2020s, slapping contests began to gain popularity and attention as a combat sport via viral videos; opponents stand across from each other and exchange blows until one concedes or is knocked out.[23][24]

In 2023, UFC president Dana White attempted to popularize slapping contests via the Power Slap League and its television series Power Slap, which also received sanctioning from the Nevada State Athletic Commission with rules patterned upon those of mixed martial arts.[25] The series, which had also been delayed after White was filmed slapping his wife in response to her attacking him at a New Year's party,[24] faced poor viewership and was cancelled by TBS after one season.[26][27]

Slapping incidents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). Merriam-Webster. 2004. p. 1170. ISBN 9780877798095.
  2. ^ "slap". Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Hit or strike with the palm of the hand or a flat object
  3. ^ slap, Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. ^ Miller, D. Gary (2014). English Lexicogenesis. p. 166. ISBN 978-0199689880.
  5. ^ Green, Jonathon (2006). Cassell's dictionary of Slang. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 114. ISBN 978-0304366361.
  6. ^ "Definition of BITCH-SLAP".
  7. ^ "Definition of bitch-slap |".
  8. ^ Livingstone, Sonia; Haddon, Leslie, eds. (2009). Kids online: opportunities and risks for children. Bristol: Policy. p. 150. ISBN 978-1847424389.
  9. ^ Levy, Frederick (2008). 15 minutes of fame: becoming a star in the YouTube revolution. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha. ISBN 978-1592577651.
  10. ^ Roberts, Andrea Clifford-Poston ; foreword by Liz (2008). A playworker's guide to understanding children's behaviour : working with the 8–12 age group. London: Karnac. p. 145. ISBN 978-1855754942.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Goggin, Gerard (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life. Routledge. p. 122. ISBN 978-0415367431.
  12. ^ Ammer, Christine (1997). The American heritage dictionary of idioms (1st pbk. ed.). Boston, Mass. [u.a.]: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 589. ISBN 039572774X.
  13. ^ Morris, Desmond (2007). The naked woman: a study of the female body (Reprint. ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0312338534.
  14. ^ Cotterill, Janet. Language in the Legal Process. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. pp. 81–82, ISBN 0333969022
  15. ^ Renzetti, Claire and Raquel Bergen. Violence against Women. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. p. 45, ISBN 0742530558
  16. ^ Malley-Morrison, Kathleen, ed. (2004). International perspectives on family violence and abuse: a cognitive ecological approach. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 20, 36. ISBN 0805842454.
  17. ^ Forman-Brunell, Miriam; Paris, Leslie, eds. (2010). The Girls' History and Culture Reader; The Twentieth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0252077685.
  18. ^ Berliner, David; Sarró, Ramon, eds. (2009). Learning religion: anthropological approaches. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 35. ISBN 978-1845455941.
  19. ^ Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen (2007). International encyclopedia of adolescence. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis. pp. 492. ISBN 978-0415966672.
  20. ^ Loseke, Donileen et al. Current Controversies on Family Violence. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. pp. 66–67 ISBN 0761921060
  21. ^ Lamb, Michael. Parenting and Child Development in "Nontraditional" Families. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999. p. 311 ISBN 080582748X
  22. ^ [dead link]
  23. ^ Lamoureux, Mack (2019-03-21). "Professional Slapping Is the World's Greatest Sport". Vice.
  24. ^ a b Nark, Jason. "'I'll do it until I die': Pennsylvania man tries to slap the pain away". Retrieved 2023-04-27.
  25. ^ Cantor, Matthew (2022-10-24). "'Like 13-year-olds invented a sport': face-slapping league gets go-ahead in Vegas". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-04-27.
  26. ^ "Report: Dana White's Power Slap canned by TBS". Bloody Elbow. 2023-03-14. Retrieved 2023-04-27.
  27. ^ Saqib, Faiza (January 21, 2023). "'A recipe for disaster': The Power Slap League - and why neurologists are so concerned".
  28. ^ Donnelly, Matt (March 28, 2022). "Why Will Smith Wasn't Ejected From the Oscars After Chris Rock Slap". Variety. Los Angeles: Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on March 29, 2022. Retrieved March 29, 2022.