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What is the difference between “tits” and “boobs”?

P.S. I'm not sure if this question is appropriate but as English is not my native language I really would love to know the difference.

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Tits are birds, boobs are idiots. –  RegDwigнt Jan 19 '11 at 14:54
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Seeing how this has collected two offensive flags within 50 minutes of being posted, I would like to remind everybody that this is a totally valid question for this site. (See meta question one, meta question two.) I do understand your frustration if you're browsing from a workplace where tits are not tolerated, but please take that up with the workplace and not with Sergey. –  RegDwigнt Jan 19 '11 at 15:51
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@RegDwight: Boobs are idiots, but boobies are also birds. –  John Y Jan 20 '11 at 3:41
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Funny that it looks like all the answers and comments are from men only. –  LarsTech Nov 10 '11 at 19:13
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@LarsTech: See Marthaª's comments. –  Sergey Nov 12 '11 at 20:23

10 Answers 10

up vote 46 down vote accepted

http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=boob

Noun

S: (n) dumbbell, dummy, dope, boob, booby, pinhead (an ignorant or foolish person)

S: (n) breast, bosom, knocker, boob, tit, titty (either of two soft fleshy milk-secreting glandular organs on the chest of a woman)

Verb

S: (v) drop the ball, sin, blunder, boob, goof (commit a faux pas or a fault or make a serious mistake) "I blundered during the job interview"

(I was not aware of the verb form, but it follows from the first noun form)

Boob could also be used to refer to a person who is acting like a clown, or it could be used to refer to something that induces cluelessness. We have a nickname for television in the US (although it's going out of fashion) called the boob-tube. I assure you it's not because it shows porn.

Noun

S: (n) breast, bosom, knocker, boob, tit, titty (either of two soft fleshy milk-secreting glandular organs on the chest of a woman)

S: (n) nipple, mammilla, mamilla, pap, teat, tit (the small projection of a mammary gland)

S: (n) titmouse, tit (small insectivorous birds)

(I was aware of titmouse but not a small bird called tit)

Tits is generally the word for mammary glands, being a corruption from teat. That's what @ghoppe was onto with his, where you emphasize the pointy bit of the end of the mammary gland. It's more evident on a dog or pig, where there are a line of teats (or tits). The fact that this usage has spread to also refer to women is likely from the fact that country/urban life has comingled more of late than of years past.

The usage to associate tits with boobs however, is purely sexist. In polite society you should mention neither, referring instead to the bosom that @Robusto mentions, or breast, but only when you must. Bosom indicates "that feeling of your grandmother wrapping her arms around you when you're scared" and breasts is generally seen as more clinical in nature.

Generally in polite society you would just avoid references to a woman's breasts, and let it go.

With men and men alone, tits is fine.

NOTE: I edited in response to a comment and decided I would give a little more attribution.

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Offtopic: the answer reminded me an old Russian joke. A teacher asks children to call words that start with "A". A naughty kid says "ass". The purist teacher says "There is no ass in Russian!". The kid answers "Unbelievable! There are asses but there is no such word" :) –  Sergey Jan 19 '11 at 15:53
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Thanks for the detailed answer by the way. –  Sergey Jan 19 '11 at 15:54
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Change "altho" and "tho" to "although" and you'll have my upvote... this is English.SE after all ;-) –  Josh Jan 19 '11 at 16:56
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@Josh Done. ~ Also, added defintions. –  jcolebrand Jan 19 '11 at 17:10
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I've upvoted all of the answers just to counteract (slightly) the idiots who keep downvoting this out of a misplaced sense of prudishness, but I want to note that I think this is the most complete and useful answer. –  Marthaª Jan 19 '11 at 23:21

My understanding has alway been that tits is British and boobs is American.

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That's why we have this site! So you can update your understanding! –  FumbleFingers Apr 7 '11 at 1:38
    
Boobs is British, too. Tits is a little vulgar. –  Pitarou Dec 23 '11 at 12:11
    
But "boob tube" in the US/Canada means television, while in the UK it means tube top (shoulderless T-shirt). –  martin f Apr 7 at 5:14

Tit refers to either the breast or the nipple, is usually considered offensive, and refers to a stupid person in British English.

Boob can only refer to the breast, is not usually considered offensive, and refers to a stupid person in American English.

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I would just add that it is common, in the UK at least, for mothers to reply with "Mummy's boobs" or "Mummy's boobies" when asked the inevitable "What are those?" question by their offspring. I could not imagine a mother telling her child that they were "Mummy's tits"!

A small point, but one that perhaps illustrates the subtle social difference between the words.

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I consider "tits" more offensive than "boobs". Also, I am against the notion that tits emphasises the nipples. That's misinformed IMO.

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Do you consider tits offensive, or "tits"? (Presumably you were referring here to the latter, the word.) –  ShreevatsaR Feb 8 '11 at 17:27
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thanks for the ftfy. –  yorksensei Feb 9 '11 at 5:33

In the phrases "boob tube", "tit puller", "tit spanners", "get on someone's tits" and "tits on a billiard ball", the two words are not readily interchangeable. Otherwise, I think they are more or less synonymous.

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Additionally make notice that those are generally localized slang, they won't be used in general usage. –  jcolebrand Jan 19 '11 at 21:30
    
boob tube isn't localised slang. Neither is get on someone's tits. –  Facebook Answers Jul 1 '13 at 5:55
    
@FacebookAnswers - I say you're wrong: "boob tube" in the US/Canada means television, while in the UK it means tube top (shoulderless T-shirt). –  martin f Apr 7 at 5:16
    
So what? Boob tube might be a slang word in the States, but in the UK it ISN'T a slang word. –  Facebook Answers Apr 7 at 17:41

As others have said, both refer to a woman's breasts, but the main difference is actually in the connotation. While both are euphemisms, boobs is a slightly more socially acceptable term. Women, in my presence at least, use the term boobs; tits is more a term that men use and generally in a more lurid fashion.

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Emphasis on slightly more acceptable. –  J.T. Grimes Jan 19 '11 at 18:08
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Be it ever so slight, it is a difference. And for the purposes of the question as I understand it, it's the only difference. By which I mean: In an utterance where the two words are effectively interchangeable, what difference does it make which one is used? Not many other answers seem to note this distinction. –  FumbleFingers Apr 7 '11 at 1:34
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I agree - women may use 'boobs' with close friends to talk about how a dress fits e.g. "it's a bit tight across the boobs" but in my experience women will never use the term 'tits' unless they're impersonating or alluding to men –  tinyd Jul 28 '11 at 11:44

I'm sure it varies by region, but in most of the US, the words "tits" and its diminutive, "titties," are used when referring to smaller breasts (A or B cup) and "boobs" is used in reference to larger breasts (C and especially D cup or larger). As with most diminutives, the term "boobies" generally refers to smaller breasts.

While all four terms are used to describe human female breasts, there are variations used to describe other things:

  • "Man-boobs" is used to describe the fatty tissue that accumulates on the chests of older and, usually, overweight men.
  • "Bitch-tits" can refer literally to the 'teets' of a female dog, especially while they are nursing pups, but in common slang it describes pointy male breasts. This often happens to body builders when they stop exercising or stop taking steroids.
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+1 for mentioning Man-boobs (also moobs :) –  Benjol Jan 20 '11 at 7:45

I think there is a slight difference in what you're emphasizing. They both refer to female breasts, but tits emphasizes the nipples (pointy bits) whereas boobs evokes an image of the round parts.

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@Marco Well, inverted nipples are still nipples, pointy or not, areola is the dark area around the nipple, so that's not exactly what I think of when I hear the word tits. As an aside, I'm mildly concerned/bemused that my answer with the most votes up is now about boobies. –  ghoppe Jan 19 '11 at 18:21
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This is simply not true. Both "boobs" and "tits" refer to the entire breast. "Nipples" is what you call "the pointy bits." –  Robusto Jan 19 '11 at 18:47
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@Robusto Of course you're right, but I never said tits doesn't refer to the entire breast. In my answer I have the exact phrase they both refer to female breasts. The difference is in what features of the breast each word accentuates. –  ghoppe Jan 19 '11 at 18:57
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@Robusto: I wasn’t aware of this either but after reading this answer I looked it up: “tit”, like “teat”, may indeed be meant to refer only to the nipple. Apparently “teat” evolved from “tit” which in turn shares a common ancestor with the German word for the same body part, “zitze” (but in German this word cannot be used synonymously with “breast”, and is only used for animals). –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 20 '11 at 8:11
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@Konrad: for humans, German does have Titte, which comes from Low German and is related to Zitze. –  RegDwigнt Jan 20 '11 at 12:49

They're both terms for female breasts. Women tend to refer to these as "boobs" and not "tits"; with men it can go either way, but a good part of the time they'll use "tits". Other (somewhat vulgar and borderline spring-break moronic) terms are knockers, twins, hooters, hoo-hahs, etc. Puritanical people sometimes call them bosoms, which is strange because bosom refers to the upper chest in general and few people have more than one of those.

By the way, to reference a woman's breasts by any term in her presence is coming on pretty strong, and in a business setting it can be tantamount to sexual harrassment.

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Well, if you're a doctor in medicine, you might get away with referencing a woman's breasts in her presence and in a professional setting... just saying! –  F'x Jan 19 '11 at 15:19
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The word "breast" can, like "bosom", be used to refer to the upper chest in general ("He struck his breast"). I wonder whether both words have been through a similar sort of euphemism process... –  psmears Jan 19 '11 at 15:22
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I'm not a doctor but I would have located a woman's hoo-ha much lower than her breasts. –  Kevin Lawrence Jan 20 '11 at 5:46
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It would be interesting to attempt to order those synonyms in increasing/decreasing order of 'vulgarity'. (BTW, you forgot jugs :) –  Benjol Jan 20 '11 at 7:43
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I'm learning so much from you guys... –  Sergey Jan 20 '11 at 7:58

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