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 '15 at 14:06
  • 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. – FumbleFingers Dec 26 '15 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 '15 at 13:46
  • 1
    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 '16 at 13:36
  • 1
    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 '16 at 10:44

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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.