I'm looking for a specific verb that mean 'giving people shit' (as in teasing them, keeping them honest).

It needs to capture that the teasing is warranted, and that the criticism is correct.

  • 2
    Slang or formal register?
    – user98990
    Jun 26, 2015 at 1:40
  • 1
    Really? I didn't think that "shit" was a bad enough word to warrant bleeping...
    – Catija
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:12
  • 2
    @Catija The line has to come somewhere; wherever it does people will disagree that words "just over it" are/not "bad enough".
    – OJFord
    Jun 26, 2015 at 6:54
  • 1
    To give shit to somebody, is not an expression I'm familiar with. The ones I know are: "Don't give me that shit" or "Don't give me any of your shit" or "I don't give a shit". All used in the negative. But none of which mean teasing, or poking fun at someone.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 26, 2015 at 8:45
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA It's mostly American, but give sb. shit is an idiom that means to nag at them or bicker at them, sometimes (though not necessarily) in a teasing way. It's more or less akin to giving sb. a hard time, and it's frequently followed by about (“She's always giving him shit about his bad grades”, for instance). Curiously, it doesn't really seem to be in any easily findable reference works—or maybe it's just hard to find because it's hard to Google for. Jun 26, 2015 at 9:08

8 Answers 8


Consider razz. It is an informal verb but captures both teasing and criticism.

  • to make playful or unkind comments about (someone) [MW]

  • to deride, jeer; to mock or make fun of (a person or thing). [OED]


To poke fun at someone, but benevolently, is to "josh"


intransitive verb: to engage in banter: joke

transitive verb: to tease good-naturedly: kid

Examples of JOSH

• “Don't take him seriously. He's just joshing

• “Don’t get all hot and bothered! I'm just joshing you”

Synonyms: chaff, jive, joke, tease, kid, rally, razz, rib, ride, roast



Consider the word needle.

Google defines it as:

provoke or annoy (someone), especially by continual criticism or questioning.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

to criticize and laugh at (someone) in either a friendly or an unkind way

tease, torment

  • Needle is charactised by continual critcism.
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 26, 2015 at 5:59

Apart from the plethora of UK colloquial slang, the only single verb I can think of that I still see regularly in books or hear in conversation is;


to criticize and laugh at (someone or something) for being bad, worthless, or unimportant

to laugh at or make fun of (someone or something) especially by copying an action or a way of behaving or speaking

"They continue to mock the idea of a new government"

For something a little more light hearted;


something said or done to cause laughter

an utterance (as a jeer or quip) intended to be taken as mockery or humour

"you should know that our teasing was done entirely in jest"


Wind-up is a word I may use, however it may not fit your one word request, so I propose:


to make hostile; annoy or irritate

Definition from Collins Dictionary


The word is chastise:

to criticize (someone) harshly for doing something wrong


  1. to inflict suffering upon for purposes of moral improvement; to discipline, especially by corporal punishment.
  2. to criticize severely.
  3. Archaic. to restrain; chasten.
  4. Archaic. to refine; purify.

You could intensify it to chasten:

to correct by punishment or suffering : discipline; also : purify to cause to be more humble or restrained :


to inflict suffering upon for purposes of moral improvement;

If the connotation of moral improvement, wasn't essential, I would go with harass or harangue.

  • 5
    Doesn't imply teasing at all.
    – stevesliva
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:06

The term twit might be useful

Tease or taunt (someone), especially in a good-humored way.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

It is usually used when the object of the poke is in the wrong

To taunt, ridicule, or tease, especially for embarrassing mistakes or faults

American Heritage

Similarly, tweak

To make fun of; tease.

American Heritage

Supplement: Also consider chide

Scold or rebuke: she chided him for not replying to her letters

[WITH DIRECT SPEECH]: “You mustn’t speak like that,” she chided gently

Oxford Dictionaries Online

  • 1
    I'm guessing "twit" is British slang? I've never heard it used this way in America --although "twit" is occasionally used as a term for a pompous dimwit. Jun 26, 2015 at 2:50
  • Yeah, tweak works in the US, twit not so much.
    – stevesliva
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:06
  • 'Twit' is very British, although I feel its use was much more prevalent in the 'Monty Python' era.
    – myol
    Jun 26, 2015 at 10:15
  • @myol Wait! This is NOT the Monty Python era?!
    – bib
    Jun 26, 2015 at 11:34

The (probably AAVE) word I always heard for this growing up was ragging. It was kind of a sport at my school. You never knew when an impromptu game of Dozens might break out, so it paid to keep your skills sharp and figure out everyone's weaknesses up front.

Ragging doesn't have to be true. However, it will be far more effective the more truth it contains. For instance, someone with a skinny mother is probably not going to be impacted very much by a "Yo' momma so fat..." snap.

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