(I do not speak English well. Sorry.)

In South Korea, the word "Disgust/Disgusting" are essential words for high school examination and college scholastic ability test.

So, many Korean students know this term, and they often say (as a humor)

"You are disgusting", "(I feel) disgust"

I think because this term "disgust" means 'very strong dislike or disapproval', it can not be used as a humor and sounds like rude.

Am I right?

I'm wondering whether "You are disgusting" could be a humor and does "disgust" can be a swear word.

Thank you.

  • 1
    The 'gust' part comes from the Latin for 'taste'. If something is disgusting it is strongly distasteful, like very unpleasant food or something filthy. 'You are disgusting' could be used in a milder, more humorous sense, for example to someone with bad table manners like chewing with their mouth open or dropping food on the table. And, no, 'disgust' is not a swear word. Oct 28, 2017 at 8:25
  • "You are disgusting", spoken seriously, means about the same as "You make me sick." (For example, a man is caught in bed with his wife's sister.) If spoken humorously, it also means "You make me sick," but as a joke. (For example, when someone has poor table manners.) Oct 28, 2017 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


disgust as a noun or verb is a powerful word. Its meaning has become more precise and distinct over time because research has been done on the emotion of disgust over the last several decades.

This Wikipedia article defines disgust and describes some of the research theories and findings:

Disgust is an emotional response of revulsion to something considered offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant. . . . Disgust is one of the basic emotions of Robert Plutchik's theory of emotions and has been studied extensively by Paul Rozin. It invokes a characteristic facial expression, one of Paul Ekman's six universal facial expressions of emotion. Unlike the emotions of fear, anger, and sadness, disgust is associated with a decrease in heart rate.[2]

The article also notes:

Disgust is one of the basic emotions recognizable across multiple cultures and is a response to something revolting typically involving taste or sight. Though different cultures find different things disgusting, the reaction to the grotesque things remains the same throughout each culture; people and their emotional reactions in the realm of disgust remain the same.[33]

These findings suggest that the meaning and use of the words are not simply diverging in different parts of the the globe, but have the same meaning and nuance everywhere. Therefore to call someone disgusting is, if the word is properly understood, an insult and rude, as you suggest--not a joke--no matter where you live.

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