Is 'throw a fit' (or the similar 'have a fit', 'pitch a fit', etc) considered offensive, or potentially offensive? After all I've seen two possible origins for it, one related to medical convulsions and epilepsy (https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/pitch-a-fit), one less defined but related to hysteria (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/have-a-fit).

Also, can anyone suggest an alternative? 'Throw/have a tantrum' is all I've come up with but maybe there's a better one that does not sound so childish.

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    Why would it be offensive? What context is it being used in? Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 3:13
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    "Throw a fit" usually means having a "temper tantrum". In most of society doing this is not looked upon kindly.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 3:19
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    The context in which you use the phrase, and your tone, will determine whether it is likely to offend. Or...wait, do you mean offensive specifically because of the connection to a medical condition?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 3:45
  • Perhaps they are concerned that using a phrase to denote an action that anyone might do, when that phrase has an origin or connotation of epilepsy (or female 'hysteria', a word with a long and chequered past), is not exactly PC? There are plenty of examples of previously acceptable phrases, words and insults no longer considered even slightly acceptable by many or most due to their connotations or specific words or their connection to some discrimination. Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 3:53
  • I don't believe throw a fit is offensive because of the connection to epilepsy; it might be offensive because you're implying that somebody is acting like a small child. You could use lost their temper instead. Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


To throw a fit is not particularly offensive so far as the choice of words is concerned. It is either not a dysphemism, or, at worst, is only a very mild one. On the other hand, the judgement that this phrase expresses is often offensive to the person whose behaviour is characterised by it. The offense cannot be reduced by expressing the judgement in different words, because it is the judgement itself that is offensive to that person.

Somebody who throws a fit typically does not think of that as throwing a fit. The person may think that he is making a well justified objection against something, that he is legitimately protesting, or that he is manifesting anger for which he has good reasons. Characterising his conduct as throwing a fit expresses a judgement that his objection or protest is not justified, that he does not have good reasons for his anger, that he is being irrational. Moreover, the phrase expresses that judgement without offering a refutation of what he regards as the justification for his conduct; it summarily dismisses his reasons, without engaging them. Such dismissal will typically be offensive to the person, regardless of what words are used to express it.


Throw a fit is not an offensive term. It is not directly associated with epileptic fits--a hissy fit or snit fit or shit fit...that is to say, a tantrum. Thus, it might be an unkind thing to say someone did, but the language itself is not ableist or otherwise distasteful.

You bring up throw a tantrum. It is no more childish than throw a fit. Both refer to the exact same behavior.

Depending on the exact meaning you wanted to convey, you might also say someone had an outburst, overreacted, was extremely pissed off, went apeshit, or blew up.

  • Your link to 'hissy fits' seems unlikely - OP's first link gives usage of 'throw a fit' back to 1600s, but english.stackexchange.com/questions/40603/… says earliest use of 'hissy fit' is early 1900s. Do you have a reference or link? Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 4:04
  • Interestingly, 'hissy fit' may well be connected to 'hysterics' (english.stackexchange.com/questions/40603/…); 'hysteria originates from the Greek word for uterus' (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hysteria), and was originally considered a purely female affliction whose 'symptoms were synonymous with normal functioning female sexuality' and led to women being 'forced to enter an insane asylum or to [undergo] surgical hysterectomy' (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_hysteria). I'm not sure whether that exactly resolves the OP's concerns! Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 4:04
  • It wasn't my intent to suggest that the term fit in this usage derived from hissy fit, but rather just that it was another genus of fit. I will try to edit to be a bit clearer in what I was trying to propose. Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 5:09
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    Some Scottish people say 'throw an epi' to mean 'throw a tantrum' or 'be very angry'. Not disability-respecting language at all. Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 9:42

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