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I came across this saying "karma is a bitch" a few times while reading some comments online recently. I understand karma as a religious concept to mean "what goes around, comes around". I also understand that bitch is a derogatory word for insulting a woman.

Why is karma being referred to as a bitch? Is this a new interpretation on what karma is about?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Also used as the rhetorical question

Ain't karma a bitch?


  • What goes around, comes around
  • Getting his just desserts
  • He had it coming

and strongly related to

  • Payback's a bitch

It is likely a mix of having bad Karma and the idiom Payback's a bitch, where Payback is performed by someone wronged by the now punished person, but Karma just happened to the person for some seemingly righteous reason not necessarily related to a person or physical entity.

The bitch part is personifying the concept Karma, which is claimed to have doled out the resulting punishment.

It is a taunt aimed at a person who is supposedly asking for the situation he is in, due to his previous actions.

So the person saying it, considers the one he says it to or about deserves to be punished because of something they did.

For example: someone is so busy pointing and laughing at a person who had an accident, that he walks straight into a lamp post and breaks his nose. His friend who did not find the accident they saw funny, could say "Ain't Karma a bitch?"

Here is a short movie giving a good idea: Karma's A Bitch from Justin Tan (Likely NSFW for some)

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Then shouldn't karma be praised instead of cursed because the person getting punished is getting his just desserts? – Question Overflow Jul 31 '13 at 8:22
Please see update. – mplungjan Jul 31 '13 at 8:47
Thanks for the nice example. – Question Overflow Jul 31 '13 at 10:21
Payback's a bitch. So is life. – J.R. Jul 31 '13 at 21:08
@Tonepoet I agree now I re-read it. I have changed the wording. Please feel free to comment. – mplungjan Jul 25 at 20:36

There's another meaning of bitch that should clear this up. From NOAD:

bitch (noun)
1 a female dog, wolf, fox, or otter.
2 informal derogatory a woman whom one dislikes or considers to be malicious or unpleasant.
• [in sing. ] informal a thing or situation that is unpleasant or difficult to deal with : the stove is a bitch to fix.

So, in the phrase karma is a bitch, the writer means:

"When what goes around comes around, the situation can be difficult to deal with or fix."

It might be worth noting that Collins marks this use of the word as slang, while Macmillan labels it as very informal.

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Ah, yes - that was not even occurring to me that OP might not know that :) As I mentioned, it was not aimed at the Karma as a concept but at the resulting punishment – mplungjan Jul 31 '13 at 9:35
I see... the unpleasant situation is the bitch :) – Question Overflow Jul 31 '13 at 10:23
@QuestionOverflow: no, receiving your just deserts is a bitch in certain situations. – TimLymington Apr 4 '14 at 11:32

Charles Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder & Fred Shapiro, The [Yale] Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012) gives a first occurrence date for "Karma is a bitch" of 1995, suggesting that this saying is very young:

Karma is a bitch.

1995 Hollywood Reporter 7 Aug.: "Hello? Hello? HELLO? Nobody answers ... Did somebody say Tommy on line 2? Karma is a bitch" (ellipsis dots and capitalization as shown). ... Cf. "PAYBACK is a bitch" and "LIFE is a bitch."

In the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, "Payback is a bitch" has a first cited occurrence from 1970, and "Life is a bitch" has a first cited occurrence from 1940 (and subsequent variations "Life is a bitch and then you die" [1982] and "Life is a bitch and then you marry one" [1987]). It's unclear whether "Payback is a bitch" is an outgrowth of "Life is a bitch," but I think it's likely, given the similarity in their focus on retribution, that "Karma is a bitch" is a mutation of "Payback is a bitch."

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In Indian Religions ( Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism ), the resultant of doing something generates a Karma, and Not doing anything also generates a karma.

Doing right ( Dharma ) generates Good Karma and Doing Wrong ( Adharma ) generates Bad Karma.

However Dharma is subjective to time, space , society and being. What may be Dharma to you can be Adharma to someone else.

A fish and cat see water differently. Water to fish is life and death to cat.

There are no answers given in hinduism. Only right questions. The person has to find answers in "n" number of lives.



Cos, you never know, what you are doing thinking Dharma may still generate Bad Karma to you.

Hope this will help you understand it better

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The English slang usage of karma has almost nothing to do with the underlying spiritual concepts. I doubt very many people who use karma even know what dharma is, or any other aspect of Hinduism or Buddhism. So while this is interesting, it does not really explain what the slang expression means. – choster Apr 18 '14 at 14:32

protected by tchrist Aug 13 '14 at 19:49

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