What did Trump actually mean by the word "shithole"?

In this particular case or in general use, what would be the non-vulgar alternative to the word shithole?

  • 3
    There is none. This is direct quotation and you're not allowed to change that. Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 18:02
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    Related: Pejorative for a room of low quality (esp. prison cell)
    – Laurel
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 18:26
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    Who said the OP is going to change the quote? I think he just wants a non-vulgar alternative. I'd suggest low-standard-of-living countries.
    – Pete
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 19:31
  • Are you asking (1) what would be the non-vulgar alternative for that term as used in that particular context, or (2) what would be the non-vulgar alternative for it generally (and are referring to this instance of its use merely as an example that is not essential to the core of the question)?
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:46
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    Did you look up the word in “the dictionary”? It’s there (even in the OED), and there you can find alternatives. Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


The alternative that best captures the spirit of the quote would be "hellhole".

"President Donald Trump expressed his belief that African countries, Haiti and El Salvador are hellholes during a meeting Thursday"

The slight tweaking of the quote is necessary in order to not misattribute words to Trump, while still attributing the underlying idea.

  • It isn't directly related to English, but one thing to be aware of is that the Trump's vulgarity was a large part of the story. A more tactful politician could likely have noted that safety, economy, and other quality of life variables represent a push factor that makes unlawful immigration to the US more likely, and it would barely make the news. In most circumstances, it would be better to simply render the word as "s***hole", as Trump's vulgar word choice was a significant part of the story.
    – LambdaCalc
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 18:57
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    Of course, some folks would also consider "hellhole" vulgar. There are still people who insist on referring to "hell" (when used casually, even when not used as an interjection) euphemistically. Typically it's replaced with "heck" or (in America) "H-E-double-hockey-sticks," but neither of those would work in the compound "hellhole" ("heckhole" sounds dreadful).
    – alphabet
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 19:36
  • While some people may indeed use hellhole with roughly the same intentions, it would be misleading to use one of these words (even without quotation marks) when reporting on somebody's having used the other, in the way that is suggested in this answer.
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:50

A non-vulgar but still rather insulting approach would be to call such countries backward.

MacMillan defines the word as:

not developing quickly, normally, and successfully

Collins defines it as:

A backward country or society does not have modern industries and machines.

  • While I don't know/care what Trump was talking about, a place can be backward and yet charming or picturesque.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 0:06

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