I understand that calling a woman a bitch is a very strong language. However, is the word vulgar per se? Specifically, when used as a verb to bitch in the meaning of to complain (see What's the meaning of "bitching"?), is it also so strong? Could you use it in front of your grandmother? :)

ADDED: Is it acceptable to use it towards kids?

As a parent:

Stop bitching about the food.

As a teacher:

If you keep bitching about the homework, I'll give you even more.

As a bonus, could you place here some examples of to bitch in the above mentioned meaning so the wider context (such as prepositions which may follow etc.) is made apparent?

  • You don't know what "vulgar" means (check dictionary). Vulgar means lower-class. Nothing could be more lower-class than using "bitch". It is utterly inconceivable in English that a parent would use the word "bitch" in talking to children. try to understand that in many ways it is EVEN MORE TABOO IN ENGLISH that swear-words such as "cunt" or "fuck". It's in the same category as using "n___er" or "sl___-eye" to refer to racial groups. The word "bitch" must not come out of your mouth.
    – Fattie
    May 16, 2016 at 15:34
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    @JoeBlow: to bitch and the bitch probably differ in strength. May 16, 2016 at 17:18
  • @JoeBlow: According to Merriam-Webster, vulgar has several meanings: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vulgar. I mean the number 5: " offensive in language, lewdly or profanely indecent". I have seen/heard bitching about something in many American movies, and it was not a matter of class. And you probably are aware that the offensive language is not felt taboo for non-native speakers, as we lack the "instinct" which you native ones learned throughout your childhood. May 17, 2016 at 12:46
  • Set aside the meaning of vulgar. So, there are swear words (such as cunt or fuck). But even worse, there are racial and group slurs. You have probably heard n _ _ _ _ er and sl _ _ _ -eye and f _ _ _ ot many times in movies, am I right? Allow me to explain again, worse than swear words are racial/group slurs. Is it making sense? (1) you hear these racial/group slurs in (bad) movies quite often - right? OK we're clear on that! (2) I would urge you to never have the word you ask about, come from your mouth, you know? Same with the other three I mention herein. Cheers.
    – Fattie
    May 17, 2016 at 13:26

5 Answers 5


It is somewhat vulgar and I wouldn't use it in front of my grandmother.

Anything you can follow 'talk' with, you can follow 'bitch' (in the verb sense) with:

That guy is always bitching about his job

Don't come bitching to me about your job

And so on...

In reference to your edit:

A teacher certainly wouldn't use it, and neither would a responsible parent (of younger children - teenagers perhaps). While it's relatively mild, it is still something of an expletive.

In short, you wouldn't use it in any polite conversation. You would only use it a situation where you would otherwise be comfortable cursing/swearing.

  • "somewhat vulgar" - so is it (much) less vulgar than a bitch about a woman? Jul 11, 2014 at 11:03
  • Well, yes, mainly because it's not pejorative - it's not a direct insult. Jul 11, 2014 at 11:17
  • Is it not pejorative??? I have understood that using to bitch about someone complaining is always pejorative! By saying that about someone I express my disgust from his behaviour. Jul 11, 2014 at 11:20
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    I would change the last part to "comfortable with mild cursing/swearing." I definitely know a lot of people (including myself) who would, in certain contexts, use bitching but would balk at stronger curses such as fuck, shit, or cunt. To put it another way, saying someone is "bitching" would be used in the same contexts where you might also use the word bitch as a noun. (The exception being that the noun is sometimes seen as misogynistic.)
    – trlkly
    Jul 17, 2014 at 23:45
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    I think it's pejorative in the sense that it suggests you disapprove. "He complains about his job" (and I agree with him); "he bitches about his job" (and I probably dislike his bitchiness, except perhaps if I'm a bitch myself).
    – ChrisW
    Jul 16, 2015 at 17:39

I am a native New Yorker (from Harlem) living in Brazil, and am having some difficulty explaining to my English students the subtle mutations through which English word meanings pass. Because of the pervasive nature and influence of hip hop language in modern American youth culture, "Bitch" as meaning a vulgar woman, a whore, a "loose" woman, etc, has been replaced by the word "Hoe". Bitch has been relegated to the meaning of a person who is difficult to get along with, in the sense that they complain incessantly. Of course the context in which it is used gives the intended meaning, but for the most part the long-standing verbal meaning has also become the nominal meaning. "She's a bitch" now means that she "bitches" too much, or complains too much. In it's usage to refer to males, it means that he is a coward. I am now waiting for online dictionaries (except for the Urban Dictionary which already reflects this) to conform to this reality.

To directly answer the question, ALL perjorative words like this are both strong and vulgar. It is ALWAYS advisable to apply suitable non-offensive words (and you can ALWAYS find them), unless you have been offended first and have no recourse - For there continue to be people who only understand and respond to this type of discourse...


Neither of my grandmothers would have used the word "bitch" except in relation to dog breeding, and perhaps not even there. That said, I know many grandmothers who regularly use the word, and who do not object when the word is used in their presence, that it's safe to say that the status of the word is in transition, and it is considerably less vulgar than it once was. It is frequently used as an alternative for "complain", and takes pretty much the same prepositions and other usage as that word. Further complicating usage is that in some subcultures, "bitchin" is used as an adjective that I understand has favorable characteristics.

That said, I generally refrain from using the word, because over use of the word is obscuring its meaning and impact.

  • Brasshat: Your last sentence makes an excellent point: "bitch" should be rarely used but profoundly meant. If it becomes neutral, what (probably horrible) word will replace it?
    – ab2
    Jul 17, 2015 at 21:46

It's not something my grandmothers say. Some parents may use it, but it is still definitely vulgar.

But I think it's definitely misogynistic, both the noun and the verb. The noun is specific to women. The verb implies that acting in a certain type of specifically female way is wrong/annoying. Just think about if you substituted a different pejorative term for a different group of people:

"Stop complaining about the homework" ->
"Stop bitching about the homework" ->
"Stop n*****-ing about the homework" ->
"Stop sp$cing about the homework"->
"Stop f*ggoting about the homework"

Now, none of those are actual verbs. But if they were, and you heard it, wouldn't you find it offensive?


You are correct, saying to bitch is far less offensive than using bitch as a slur, but it certainly isn’t polite. I’d be interested to know where those who say the word is among the worst are from. I’ve never known an English-speaking culture that considers bitch worse than cunt or fuck.

Bitch is considered a fairly strong word, but bitching is generally considered among the mildest possible swear words, to the point that there are plenty of people who would not consider it swearing.

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