Definition of insult in English:



Pronunciation /ɪnˈsʌlt/
  • Speak to or treat with disrespect or scornful abuse:

    ‘you're insulting the woman I love’
    • ‘I'm not big on censorship and I will only delete a posting if it contains insulting language.’
    • ‘The players are insulting the hard work put in to keep the club alive.’
    • ‘Political violence is often a resentful backlash to a group's sense of being insulted or humiliated.’
    • ‘Lists are just a cheap, uninspired and valueless way of filling column inches and insulting readers.’
    • ‘When villagers tried to put the cones back, they were insulted by some motorists.’
    • ‘My problem is with stupid, ignorant and insulting queries like the one posed above.’
    • ‘Eileen Murphy, who has lived there nine years, said people were fuming and insulted by the slur.’
    • ‘So is there any hope that the broadcasters will stop insulting our intelligence?’
    • ‘I wonder what sort of business he's involved with, if he doesn't need to worry about insulting women?’
    • ‘It is the first time in years that someone has been taken to court and penalised for insulting the monarch.’
    • ‘Howard has been not only honest but clever in not insulting voters with tricky talk.’
    • ‘He said he became angry after his girlfriend was insulted by the two accused men.’
    • ‘It insulted his intelligence and made him wonder why he went to college in the first place.’
    • ‘As a statement of defiance, it was more effective than insulting a head of state.’
    • ‘Try having people insulting you every single day, and tell me how long you can last?’
    • ‘Carl is insulted, humiliated and ignored on a regular basis and yet keeps coming back for more.’
    • ‘It was the cruel and insulting nature of that particular rant that so annoyed me.’
    • ‘They have insulted our war dead and probably do not even realise it.’
    • ‘He insulted me and repeatedly pushed my shoulder, hoping to goad me into hitting him.’
    • ‘Not only are they taking money out of our pockets but they are insulting us.’
    • ‘They were also said to be regularly insulted and physically abused by the owners.’
    • ‘Well the nation has had to put up with weeks of its intelligence being insulted by those who claimed we were wrong to act.’
    offend, cause offence to, give offence to, affront, abuse, be rude to, call someone names, slight, disparage, discredit, libel, slander, malign, defame, denigrate, cast aspersions on, impugn, slur, revile, calumniate
    hurt, hurt someone's feelings, mortify, humiliate, wound
    snub, rebuff, spurn, shun, treat disrespectfully, ignore, cut dead, give someone the cold-shoulder, turn one's back on
    slag off
    asperse, derogate, miscall
    abusive, rude, vulgar, offensive, wounding, mortifying, humiliating, disparaging, belittling, derogatory, depreciating, deprecatory, disrespectful, denigratory, uncomplimentary, pejorative, vituperative
    disdainful, derisive, scornful, contemptuous
    defamatory, slanderous, libellous, scurrilous, blasphemous, discrediting
    bitchy, catty
    View synonyms


Pronunciation /ˈɪnsʌlt/
  • 1A disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or act:

    ‘he hurled insults at us’
    ‘he saw the book as a deliberate insult to the Church’
    • ‘This is the crowning insult to a lifetime of perceived slights and insults, which exist nowhere but in his head.’
    • ‘It is an insult to the primary producers of this region to be snubbed by any Minister, let alone one who supposedly represents their industry.’
    • ‘My remarks were not an insult to decent youths or their parents.’
    • ‘As she said this, she glared at John-Paul, as if her remarks were an insult.’
    • ‘The implication that parenting under pressure is an invitation to abuse is an insult to the integrity of millions of hardworking mums and dads.’
    • ‘It's grossly invasive and humiliating, an insult to the dignity of any person.’
    • ‘With Australian spies among their number, they face a season-long barrage of insults and sly remarks if the world champions add the Captain Cook Cup to their trophy haul.’
    • ‘The conduct that has come to light is an insult to the people, and an affront to the most basic standards of morality and decency.’
    • ‘The man came around from his counter and began yelling insults at me.’
    • ‘Problems included loud music, out-of-control dogs, residents being assaulted and abuse and insults hurled at people in the street.’
    • ‘It is tempting to refuse to answer those who have nothing to contribute but rude remarks, insults, and attempts to accuse others of things never said.’
    • ‘With respect, this remark is an insult to the intelligence of your readers.’
    • ‘Many took his remarks as a racial insult.’
    • ‘This was a blatant insult to Russia and an affront to the whole free world.’
    • ‘I strongly feel that what has been written about him in your paper is a slur on his character and an insult to his profession, and that you should apologise to him in writing.’
    • ‘You know your comment about there being more jobs in America then ever is a real stupid remark and an insult to hourly workers of America.’
    • ‘He's been a never-ending source of insults and putdowns, to keep the hecklers at bay and the fans in stitches.’
    • ‘The Vietnamese perceived this disrespect as an insult to the entire village.’
    • ‘The arch tastemaker meant it as a compliment, but barbed remarks and outright insults have dogged her throughout her career.’
    • ‘A string of vitriolic insults were hurled at the referee who should have at least administered a yellow card for diving if he felt a penalty was the wrong decision.’
    abusive remark, jibe, affront, slight, snub, barb, slur, backhanded compliment, injury, libel, slander, defamation, abuse, disparagement, depreciation, impugnment, revilement, humiliation, indignity, insolence, rudeness
    dig, put-down, slap in the face, kick in the teeth
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A thing so worthless or contemptible as to be offensive:
      ‘the present offer is an absolute insult’
      • ‘This Minister has introduced a bill that is an absolute insult to the cause he should be serving.’
      • ‘As one steward said, ‘The offer is an insult.’’
      • ‘The distraught parents of Adele, who died last year, said the fine was an ‘absolute insult to us and to the memory of Adele’.’
      • ‘But, of course, that is completely untrue, and, in the context of this bill, an absolute insult.’
      • ‘He said the charity's grant was an insult to his mother, who had tirelessly raised funds for it before her death.’
      • ‘The policy was an affront to our values and a needless insult to our friends.’
      • ‘A teabag is an insult to tea connoisseurs.’
      • ‘The present old age pension compared to today's average wage is an unforgivable insult and an absolute disgrace.’
      • ‘If you are going to have nurses on call, the pay is an insult.’
      • ‘That is, in my view, an absolute insult, given the importance of this legislation.’
      • ‘The latest insult to local councillors is the plan to deprive them of any say in the health of the nation.’
      • ‘They have now been offered a 1 percent rise to pay for the additional costs, and that is a total and an absolute insult.’
      • ‘What an insult to every mother in the country that Budget was!’
  • 2Medicine
    An event which causes damage to a tissue or organ:

    ‘the movement of the bone causes a severe tissue insult’
    • ‘Tissues exposed to one insult can develop tolerance to a subsequent injury.’
    • ‘For this reason, various environmental insults that damage intestinal tissues also lower the levels of lactase.’
    • ‘As the physiologic insults to each organ system accumulated, the outcome for this patient became worrisome.’
    • ‘Any insult to this tissue in the future will not be endured in the same manner as normal tissue, resulting in cancer.’
    • ‘Although a second traumatic event may serve as abreaction or a cure for some dissociative amnesic states, this seems unlikely in the event of two severe neurological insults.’


  • add insult to injury

    • Act in a way that makes a bad situation worse:

      ‘to ask our members to accept a pay cut adds insult to injury’
      • ‘The site should be reopened, the hoarding is appalling and adds insult to injury.’
      • ‘Adding insult to injury, the banks have the gall to say that consumers are to blame.’
      • ‘This latest £4 million loss just adds insult to injury.’
      • ‘For Scarlett himself, the architect of that mistrust, to be promoted into the top job merely adds insult to injury.’
      • ‘Adding insult to the injury, it appears that not only is Red incapable of singing, he also apparently can't speak English.’
      • ‘To add insult to injury, the transport authority also attempts to increase bus fares and eliminate the monthly pass.’
      • ‘Mixing your drinks adds insult to injury and increases the amount of toxins you have to cope with.’
      • ‘The fact that nobody has accepted responsibility for this adds insult to injury.’
      • ‘And it's not just the money - bad pay just adds insult to injury.’
      • ‘It is already hard enough to sit in a traffic jam without Begg wishing to add insult to injury by asking motorists to pay extra for the inconvenience.’
  • insult someone's intelligence

    • Treat someone as less intelligent than they are:

      ‘the film starts insulting my intelligence and asking me to ignore obvious flaws in logic’
  • an insult to someone's intelligence

    • Something too simple or basic for someone:

      ‘he viewed the article as an insult to his intelligence’
      • ‘This is an insult to the intelligence of his readers.’
      • ‘When so-called scary family movies play it safe, it seems less like a thrill ride and more like an insult to kids' intelligence.’
      • ‘To suggest adverse statistics are a sign of success, rather than failure, is an insult to our intelligence.’
      • ‘This abomination is an insult to taxpayers' intelligence, and why we have put up with this nonsense is mystifying.’
      • ‘It would be an insult to his intelligence to suggest that he doesn't know this much.’
      • ‘This play is a criminal waste of two great talents and, if I may say so, an insult to the intelligence of the audience.’
      • ‘It's an insult to my intelligence to think I won't question why there have been hundreds of unanswered murders prior to his mother, yet the folks assume it must be the otherwise harmless son.’
      • ‘He found the party's drama an insult to his intelligence.’
      • ‘This piece of implausible tripe is an insult to the intelligence of even the most brain dead of Sunday night viewers.’
      • ‘Commercials may be crass, loud, an insult to our intelligence.’


Mid 16th century (as a verb in the sense ‘exult, act arrogantly’): from Latin insultare jump or trample on, from in- on + saltare, from salire to leap. The noun (in the early 17th century denoting an attack) is from French insulte or ecclesiastical Latin insultus. The main current senses date from the 17th century, the medical use dating from the early 20th century.