I am a non-native speaker trying to learn English. I have a question about an animal.

Why is "dog" considered a good word and while its female equivalent, "bitch", is considered a bad word? In essence both are the same animal just masculine and feminine. I have even seen people calling a "bitch" as dog while they call other animals by their female terms.

Please do not get me wrong I am just trying to understand why there is so much differentiation between male and female versions of the same animal?

  • 2
    Bitch is only a 'bad word' when it is used to describe a person. Dog breeders use it for female dogs as a matter of course. Incidentally, dog can also be an insulting term for a man ("You dirty dog!"), but people tend to make more effort to avoid bitch because it is considered particularly offensive. Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 14:06
  • See this question Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 15:02
  • No one should be surprised that derogatory words for females of the species are applied to women: not just 'bitch' but 'cow'. 'Bull' is flattering. 'dog' as in 'you old dog' is sort of admiring. Similarly, calling a man an 'old goat' is sort of flattering, suggesting his continuing virility. 'Rat' and 'mouse' are gender neutral.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 20:51

1 Answer 1


This is probably the best explanation, but the history is sketchy:

bitch (n.)

Old English bicce "female dog," probably from Old Norse bikkjuna "female of the dog" (also of the fox, wolf, and occasionally other beasts), which is of unknown origin. Grimm derives the Old Norse word from Lapp pittja, but OED notes that "the converse is equally possible." As a term of contempt applied to women, it dates from c. 1400; of a man, c. 1500, playfully, in the sense of "dog." Used among male homosexuals from 1930s. In modern (1990s, originally African-American vernacular) slang, its use with reference to a man is sexually contemptuous, from the "woman" insult.

BITCH. A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore. ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1811]

Bitch goddess coined 1906 by William James; the original one was success.

bitch (v.)

"to complain," attested from at least 1930, perhaps from the sense in bitchy, perhaps influenced by the verb meaning "to bungle, spoil," which is recorded from 1823. But bitched in this sense seems to echo Middle English bicched "cursed, bad," a general term of opprobrium (as in Chaucer's bicched bones "unlucky dice"), which despite the hesitation of OED, seems to be a derivative of bitch (n.).

  • I wonder whether the opposite of a doggess isn’t a dogger.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 18:10
  • 2
    A female fox is a vixen.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 19:10

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