Why do so many non-native speakers from very different linguistic backgrounds seem to understand the term bitch as being a synonym for prostitute?-- I have never heard a native speaker use the former to refer to "a person who has sex with someone for money", and, as a native speaker myself, the word has absolutely no sexual connotations whatsoever. Furthermore, I am familiar with a few other languages, wherein the terms for "a female dog" and "prostitute" are often not the same, so it doesn't seem to be some sort of traditional L1 interference.

closed as primarily opinion-based by user140086, FumbleFingers, Hot Licks, Phil Sweet, Drew Jun 29 '16 at 17:03

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    I am a non-native English speaker and I've never considered it that way. Also, I have heard native-speakers calling a prostitute a bitch. – user140086 Jun 29 '16 at 10:21
  • 2
    I also have never heard this. In some Romance languages like Spanish, the rough equivalent to calling a woman a "bitch" is to call her a word with the literal meaning of "prostitute" (in Spanish, puta). So it seems possible to me that a Spanish speaker might get the idea that "bitch is the English word for puta," and assume that since the words are used the same way, they have the same literal meaning. But I don't know if that's the situation with the speakers you have heard. – sumelic Jun 29 '16 at 10:59
  • 3
    Indian here. I disagree with your assumption. However, I've seen western movies and rap music where they call prostitutes, and other women under someone's total control, a "bitch". – NVZ Jun 29 '16 at 12:01
  • 1
    Bitch is used with maybe 100 different meanings, and different individuals will assign different meanings, based on their background and experience. I would not assign any great significance to a specific individual's choices for this word. – Hot Licks Jun 29 '16 at 12:10
  • Your basic idea is correct: many non-native speakers do confuse the definition. The problem with your premise is in the last sentence. Although many languages have different words for bitch, whore, and prostitute, the usage in the other languages gets blurred. Ex. Spanish: son of a bitch= hijo de puta, where puta translates as whore. Italian: figlio de puttana, etc. As @Alexander Kosubek commented below, it happens in German, too. If you reword your question with facts, it might get reopened. – Cascabel Jun 29 '16 at 18:20

The British definition of bitch (from your link) includes both the following:

offensive: an unkind or unpleasant woman:
She can be a real bitch.

offensive slang: someone who will do everything you tell them to do because you have complete control over them

Those meanings are not included in the corresponding American definition, so I assume that it is not used in those ways in American English.

I have often heard (on TV) a prostitute being called a bitch, but have always understood that to be a comment on the person's character, and not a synonym for prostitute. However, it is easy to understand that a non-native speaker might assume the two words to be synonyms.

  • I think the last paragraph hits the mark. A pimp's bitches are his bitches in the sense of the second definition you gave (not necessarily in the sense of the first one). But it gets across to the uninformed recipient as meaning "prostitute" in general. That's at least my experience from German language dubbings. If "Bitch" (properly capitalized in German) is left untranslated, it lends itself to being misunderstood in this way. And as German imo lacks a proper translation for the word, it usually will be left untranslated. – Alexander Kosubek Jun 29 '16 at 12:20
  • We Americans certainly have used it for "unpleasant woman" for many decades; I don't understand why your dictionary didn't include that definition. American dictionaries do. But I don't think we used it for "controlled person" before the transplanted Englishman Neil Gaiman said "George R R Martin is not your bitch." – Peter Shor Jun 29 '16 at 14:52
  • @PeterShor, you've never heard e.g. he's such a little bitch or you're my bitch now?-- I've heard it used this way since the '90s... – errantlinguist Jun 29 '16 at 14:58
  • @errantlinguist: well ... I understood what Neil Gaiman meant, so maybe I had heard it before then. But certainly not often. – Peter Shor Jun 29 '16 at 15:00

I would wager it's because a lot of languages lack an accurate translation for "bitch". I know French, Spanish and Portuguese don't. As is the case with those languages, most insults to women are different ways of saying "whore", "slut", or, simply, "prostitute". "Bitch" is actually a very specific concept, if you think about it, and most people wouldn't be able to give an exact definition of what a "bitch" is. This, of course, is a nightmare for translators, who figure it's fine as long as the audience it's being translated to knows it's meant as an insult.

EDIT: grammar

  • 1
    Actually, Portuguese (at least European Portuguese) has the word 'cabra' (literally 'she-goat') which is the equivalent to 'bitch'. – Sara Costa Jul 29 '16 at 19:00

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