When it comes to insulting slang, look no further than the human body. Pussy, cunt, twat… these words can all be used as weapons when it comes to a verbal smack down. And while it’s usually the female body that attracts the most slang terms, guys have contributed a few words of their own…which brings us to the word prick.
Prick is mainly used to describe when someone is acting like a jerk, but it can also be used as a slang term for penis. The more PG definition of prick means, “to puncture or mark.” So where did this term come from? And how did it get so many meanings?
According to etymologists, the word prick originated in the Middle English (from prikke) or Old English (prica) and dates back to before the 12th century. Back then, it pretty much meant what it means today: to make a small hole by a pointy or sharp object. It was also used amongst farmers to describe a piece of sharpened wood that kept oxen in place, like a fence.
Around the late 1500s, prick became synonymous with penis. Why? We can only guess that the penis was (and is) considered a sharp object that punctures or pierces the vagina/hymen. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that prick actually became an insult.
In 1929, prick was defined as, “one in authority who is abusive or unjust” by the prestigious journal American Speech–in other words, someone who’s a jerk. And just like today, the term was typically only applied to men. This is different than other body-inspired insults, like pussy, that can be applied to both men and women.
Today, the term prick is still used for all of the meanings it has acquired throughout history. From the cult classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (“No brain little prick.”) to the mobster movie Casino, the term crops up all across pop culture.
Now, the question is: Have you ever called someone a prick?