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There's a word used in India, 'cheatercock.' Wiktionary defines a 'cheatercock' as

(India) Someone who violates rules in order to gain an advantage; a cheater.

There are a few hits online, mostly in lists of 'Indianisms.' One of these results is a Quora thread that tries to explain the term's etymology. It spells the word as 'cheater cock' (and I assume that it could also be hyphenated), and the top-voted answer there is some story about a chaotic badminton game where the spectators started shouting 'Cheater cock! Cheater cock!' (Shortened from 'shuttlecock.')

However, the answer cites no sources, and I've also only ever heard 'shuttlecock' shortened to 'shuttle' in India, never to 'cock.'

So, where does the word cheatercock come from, then? Where did it come from and when did it originate? Is it just 'cheater' with a bit of a vulgar appendage? And even if so, why and how did it happen?


Edit: I'm still leaving @Sven Yargs' answer as accepted since it's useful and helpful, but this question makes me wonder whether 'cheatercock' came from 'cheater caught,' since both vowels sound the same in Indian English. Hmm.

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  • 1
    A cock does mean a shuttlecock in Indian vernacular. Also referred to as a badminton cock at times to avoid confusion. ehm ehm
    – BeBlunt
    Feb 26, 2023 at 18:09
  • @BeBlunt - interesting; I've only heard 'shuttle,' but you're probably also right. Feb 26, 2023 at 20:24

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I haven't found any serious attempt at an etymological explanation for the term cheatercock. The older Indian sources I checked don't suggest that there is any sexual innuendo involved in it. For example, from Samyuthka K, "Indian English," in the Times of India (April 23, 2016):

Cheater cock!

No, this doesn’t mean that he was in someone else’s pants. This gender-neutral phrase means someone cheated in an exam or just lied about something!

I suspect, to the contrary, that the implication is that the person cheating is doing so in a brazen or ostentatiously unrepentant manner, suggestive of a strutting rooster.

The oldest match for cheatercock that Google Books search turns up is from Malaysia, not India—although evidently spoken by an ethnic Tamil character. From an unidentified story in Lloyd Fernando, Malaysian Short Stories (1981) [combined snippets]:

Ali's top was also a new one, but it was not as beautiful as Chranpal's. Kanda's top was a good one. It was full of pock marks where pieces of wood had broken off after it was hit. But it was still in one piece and Kanda believed that his was the magic top that couldn't be broken. Rama's top was in good shape, and it really had a strong nail and Chranpal was afraid of it.

"OK, let's start," said Kanda.

They cleared the dust again, cleaned out the hole , made a circle and started. At the word "go", the four boys began to string their tops. Rama was the first to swing, next Chranpal made a throw, Kanda's string got loose and he was the last and he had to "pasang" the game. He placed his top in the middle of the circle.

Rama attacked with his top. It hit Kanda's but did no damage. Next Chranpal threw in his and it just grazed Kanda's and Ali's top didn't hit Kanda's at all. They played on and soon Ali had to "pasang" his top.

Chranpal tried to play a careful game. He wasn't as powerful a player as Rama, but he wasn't too bad either. He tried to steer a middle road. He did not try to put in too much force in his throws when he was hitting Kanda's and Ali's tops , hoping they would also show mercy on him. But Rama was ruthless. He swung his arm and his top would send the others flying. Chranpal waited his turn for "pasang" with fear. "Oh God, please don't let me be out," he whispered.

They played on. Chranpal's mother came out and called to him to come home, and he felt that he should seize the chance and run home. But the other boys would not let him go.

"You don't be a cheatercock, eh," said Rama.

Chranpal couldn't do anything and he yelled back to his mother, "Wait, I am coming," and continued playing. He knew that his turn for "pasang" would come and he just wished that his top would not be broken. That they would somehow spare it. If he got through the "pasang" then he could go home honourably without the others calling him a coward.

It may be significant that cheatercock arises here in the context of a children's game of battling tops, given the fact that (as Laurel points out in her answer) fighting cocks (roosters) is a centuries-old pastime. If the term originated in the specific context of battling tops, the inclusion of "cock" in the term might be a pejorative comparison of "cheatercocks" to honorable fighting cocks. There is very little information to base such a specific origin of the term on, however.


None of this is to say that nonsense-sounding words ending in -cock can't have a sexual component. One famous instance occurs in act 3, scene 4 of King Lear, when Edgar, in his guise as Tom o'Bedlam, chants, "Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill. Alow, alow, loo! loo!" Alexander Schmidt, Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary, third edition (1902) offers the following gloss on pillicock:

Pillicock (Qq Pelicock) a term of endearment, with a lascivious double-meaning: Lr. III 4, 78 (alluding to an old rhyme: Pillicock, Pillocock sat on a hill: if he's not gone, he sits there still).

The OED, with rather less delicacy, offers the following entry for the word:

Pillicock. Obs. ... {f. pill, also pillie and pilluck, all north. dial., = Norw. dial. pill (Aasen) penis} 1. The penis (vulgar). [Citations omitted.] 2. 'A flattering word for a young boy'; = 'my pretty knave' (Cotgr.).

Like any -cock word, cheatercock is susceptible to a phallic interpretation by readers or listeners who are that way inclined, but I see no reason to suppose that it originated with any such signification in mind.

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+50

It's hard to find anything even bordering on conclusive, but A Comparative Study of R. K. Narayan and Arundhati Roy surfaces what looks like another Indian slang term:

Children love coining new words. For example, Cheater-Cock, and fighter-Cock,

This seems like a fairly straightforward compound. It's well known that cocks will fight, though it was banned in India in 1960. The earliest example I can find is 1963, in The Valley of Pines & The Rainbow of Life:

Dillo, the famous 'fightercock', the most bellicose woman of the vicinity, was a few yards away. She, too, was coming to fetch water.

Here's another example in use:

The young Shilpa was a lively child: her mother would sometimes call her a 'fightercock', mainly because of spats with Shamita. — Shilpa Shetty - The Biography

(Shilpa Shetty was born in 1975, and this passage seems to take place before she was 15.)

As for the date of cheatercock, I found an example from Malaysian Short Stories in 1981:

"You don't be a cheatercock, eh," said Rama. Chranpal couldn't do anything and he yelled back to his mother, "Wait, I am coming," and continued playing.

Evidently, the term isn't considered very offensive, likely being as offensive as plain old "cheater". For example, the bilingual book Telugu Kids Story: Cheater Cock (2013) is aimed at kids between the ages of 3 and 7, and has "cheater cock" emblazoned on the cover.

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In the book “A Comparative Study of R. K. Narayan and Arundhati Roy: Linguistic and Literary Aspects” by N. Prasanna Lakshmi, they say the expression “cheatercock” was actually coined by children.

and in the following site (8 Made Up English Phrases Only Indians Use!) they say:

When we were kids, while playing if someone cheats we yell saying ‘cheater cock’. I mean why would we even use this word I actually can’t stop laughing because I myself have used this word and now I just wonder why dint I just use the word cheater?!

So, apparently, the term was a jocular expression invented by imaginative young Indians.

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  • IMHO this doesn't fully explain why the word "cock" was chosen. The usual vulgar meaning doesn't seem relevant in context.
    – alphabet
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:28
  • @alphabet - it seems to be used in a pejorative sense, to reinforce the negative sense of cheater.
    – user 66974
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:30
  • The linked examples are just two more speculative claims, not more convincing than those mentioned in the original question. N. Prasanna Lakshmi is a scholar, so if she was discussing this phrase at any length I would certainly give it more weight than a random speculation on the internet (especially as she’d presumably back up her claims a bit) — but here she only mentions it in passing, as one among several examples of Arundhati Roy giving inventive language to children, so I don’t think we can take it as especially authoritative.
    – PLL
    Feb 26, 2023 at 14:39
  • @PLL - I think the expression is just a straightforward construction cheater + cock young Indians may well have made up in everyday language. That’s the sense of just mentioning it as a children construction. As a matter of fact apparently the are no other sources that try to understand its coinage.
    – user 66974
    Feb 26, 2023 at 14:47

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