The word twat is widely used as a derogatory epithet, especially in British English, referring to a person considered obnoxious or stupid. It is also used informally as a verb in British English to mean "to hit or punch a person". In British English and Commonwealth English, it is pronounced // to rhyme with that, or sometimes //, to rhyme with hot. In North American English, it is pronounced //, to rhyme with squat. Twat is also used in the United States as vulgar slang for the human vulva.
- Then owls and bats
- Cowls and twats
- Monks and nuns in a cloister's moods
- Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry
Its meaning was in reality the same then as now, Browning's misconception probably arose from a line in a 1660 satirical poem, Vanity of Vanities:
- They talk't of his having a Cardinalls Hat
- They'd send him as soon an Old Nuns Twat
- Among the pithy sayings which, according to tradition, the philosopher bequeathed to posterity in rhythmical form and sententious brevity, this is notably recorded: "Humble yourselves, my descendants; the father of your race was a 'twat' (tadpole): exalt yourselves, my descendants, for it was the same Divine Thought which created your father that develops itself in exalting you."
It is commonly thought that a "twat" is a noun to describe a pregnant goldfish. However a goldfish cannot be impregnated and this definition of the word has never appeared in a respectable dictionary.
Although sometimes used as a reference to the female genitalia (a usage that predominates for the word in North American English), the word twat is more often used in various other ways:
- As a derogatory insult, a pejorative meaning a fool, a stronger alternative to the word twit – 'He can be a complete twat' (frequent in British and Commonwealth English, and not unheard of in North America)
- Informally as a verb meaning to hit someone (a British usage)
In August 2008, the publisher of a children's book, My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson, decided to reprint the word twat as twit in future editions of the novel so as not to offend readers or their parents after receiving three complaints
In a radio interview on 29 July 2009, the leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron apologized for any offence caused after he used the word twat on live radio during a breakfast radio show interview on Absolute Radio:
The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.
He attempted to play down the incident, and added: "I was doing a radio interview and I'm sure that people will understand that."
Word usage ratings
For the purposes of film certification, usage of the word is not considered as serious as many other swear words. It is listed by the British Board of Film Classification as an example of "moderate language" for the 12 certificate. However, the film Kes has been certified PG in the United Kingdom, meaning: "All ages admitted, but certain scenes may be unsuitable for young children. Should not disturb children aged 8 years or over", despite more than one instance of the word.
It also is not on the list of the Seven dirty words made famous by George Carlin in his 1972 monologue "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television", perhaps because the word is much less common in North America than in Britain.
|Look up twat in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- "Twat". Dictionary.com. 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015. This source aggregates material from paper dictionaries, including Random House Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, and Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary. The word may originate from Old Norse þveit (thveit) meaning 'cut, slit, or forest clearing'.
- "Definition of twat in English". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. British and World English lexicon. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- "Shrew". Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press. 2015. Second definition/. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- Mark Liberman (19 January 2005). "Twat v. Browning". Language Log. Retrieved 30 July 2005.
- "Twat". Dictionary.co.uk.[dead link][dead link]
- John Lloyd, John Mitchinson (2010). QI: The Book of General Ignorance – The Noticeably Stouter Edition. Faber & Faber. p. 18. ISBN 0-571-27378-5. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
- The Origins and Common Usage of British Swear-words
- Floot, Alison (21 August 2008). "'Offensive' word to be removed from Jacqueline Wilson book". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
- "David Cameron apologises for Twitter radio swearing gaffe". Telegraph Media Group. 29 Jul 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- Siddique, Haroon (29 July 2009). "David Cameron says sorry for 'twat' comment during radio interview". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
- 12A and 12, British Board of Film Classification
- Parents' Guide for Kes (1969)
- Doug Linder. "Filthy Words by George Carlin". Law.umkc.edu. Retrieved 18 February 2014.