How common is the word insult in the sense "[cause] bodily injury/trauma" in modern day English?

Is it chiefly medical speak, or has it spread into general print that even the layperson knows what it means?


: injury to the body or one of its parts; also : something that causes or has a potential for causing such insult : pollution and other environmental insults

: injury to the body or one of its parts : repeated acute vascular insults; any insult to the constitution of a patient suffering from active tuberculosis—Journal of the American Medical Association


n. NAm: Med: blessure; lésion (du corps)

v. NAm: Med: foods that insult the body, nourriture qui nuit à la santé (lit. foods that ruin health)

insults the body Google Search

insult the body Google Search

Source: Harrap's New Shorter French and English Dictionary, Ed. 1985

In medical and scientific jargon, often means "something that disturbs normal functions; a trauma"

Source: Garner's Modern American Usage, Third Edition - Oxford University Press (2009)

  • 4
    "Foods that insult the body", in the US, would be pseudo-medical-speak, used by people pushing some sort of diet protocol.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 26, 2015 at 14:06
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    It's a figurative usage of the sense To make an attack or assault, which OED says is now obsolete as a "literal" usage. Personally, I think it's pretty quaint/dated even figuratively. Dec 26, 2015 at 17:20
  • 1
    Let's suppose I am having a double Big Mac after twisting my ankle, am I adding insult to injury? :P
    – BiscuitBoy
    Dec 27, 2015 at 13:46
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    You might say that a certain food "doesn't agree with you" - this is still quite a common usage. I suppose that an insult is an extreme sign of disagreement. It would be interesting to learn which term came first.
    – JHCL
    Jan 7, 2016 at 13:36
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    It is understandable to laypeople, but for me evokes a correlation with "an insult to God" in the sense of treating the body as a temple.
    – Egox
    Feb 28, 2016 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


I can't speak for the medical field, but in popular literature, such a phrase would be unusual.

I doubt an average reader without any medical experience would have any trouble discerning the meaning, but the usage would be markedly more poetic than prosaic.

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