Is a derogative comment an offensive comment?

To what extent are these two words synonyms?

  • 2
    Did you mean derogatory? Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:45
  • Derogative and derogatory are close synonyms.
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:49
  • 1
    Only in AmE (which is why I have retagged it): the OED has 'tending to derogation' (a technical/legal term) as the only definition. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:22
  • @TimLymington Derogative From old French. Adj. - lessening; belittling; derogatory.
    – David M
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 0:03

4 Answers 4


Derogative comments can be offensive, depending on context - but they are certainly not synonyms. There can be a lot of overlap between the two, trying to explain the differences with examples:

Derogative not offensive : Consider the example of 'housewife' given in MW definition for derogative - it might be 'belittling' or w/e (personally I disagree but it does have negative connotations for some people) but you can hardly say that calling someone a housewife is 'offensive'.

Offensive not derogative : Some terms such as cripple are recently considered offensive, with people preferring to substitute 'handicapped' or 'special needs' etc. as terms. However as a statement of fact it isn't derogative (you aren't belittling someone by pointing out they can't walk properly)

Both derogative & offensive : See the list of ethnic slurs on Wikipedia, most of them are both derogative (having some negative connotation) and offensive for various reasons to the target populace.


They are not synonyms. A comment can be offensive in many ways, eg by using explicit sexual or profane language in an inappropriate setting, without it being derogatory to any one particular person or thing.

Derogative in Merriam-Webster:

...intended to make a person or thing seem of little importance or value.

Derogatory is far more common than derogative in both American and British English. Derogative hasn't been in common use since 1860.

  • Ok but if I tried to make you seem of little importance or value, would you feel offended?
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:02
  • Potentially anyone could be offended - no one likes to be put down like that. But whether you react by bursting into tears, punching the offender, or calmly letting it wash over you is down to the individual. You say 'tried', which means it's deliberate and therefore more hurtful/annoying than if if someone thoughtlessly belittles you.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:11
  • Here we go again with anonymous downvoters. The purpose for downvoting is 'This answer is not useful'. It might not be the best answer, it might not be worthy of an upvote, but can the downvoter please explain what is so wrong with it that it's considered 'not useful'? When I rule ELU it will all be different....
    – Mynamite
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:17

Derogatory comments are demeaning (degrading) and are offensive (most of the time), but not always. Many times derogatory names are used as terms of endearment, but there is a fine line. People may be offended even if the comment or name was not directed at them, specifically if the name is used to refer negatively to a group of people.


Derogative is arrogant and condescending. Offensive is a wide open assault to one's sense of decency.

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