According to the Oxford dictionary, shit is defined as "(i) Faeces, (ii) Something worthless; rubbish; nonsense", whereas crap is defined as "(i) Something of extremely poor quality, (ii) Excrement". In addition, to me as a non-native speaker, those carry the same meaning when used in the following sentences:

This book is crap.
This book is shit.

While neither are to be used in polite conversation ("This book is worthless" would be more appropriate), which of the two words is more rude?

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    Profanity is perfectly on topic and acceptable here. :) – user1068446 May 12 '14 at 7:14
  • Not only that, but neither crap nor shit are slang. Slang is "very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language, as Hit the road." Shit and crap are the exact opposite of slang. – ЯegDwight May 12 '14 at 9:13
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    I am migrating this to ELL because any native speaker will easily identify crap as a euphemism for shit, and as such less rude by definition. – ЯegDwight May 12 '14 at 9:15
  • @user1068446 - True, but technically the terms under discussion are scatology. Bad language is generally divided into three categories: profanity (uses religious terms), obscenity (refers to sex) and scatology (refers to bodily waste). – WhatRoughBeast Oct 8 '15 at 22:23
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    @Cupcake you can say "crap" on TV. End of story. – ЯegDwight Oct 9 '15 at 10:04

I view shit as a swear word, crap as a rude word and poo (poop) as a word suitable for children to use. Shit always seems to be a bit of an Americanism to me which weakens its impact a little for my ears, rather like an Englishman calling someone a motherfucker. It just doesn't sound right; it's like listening to a non-native speaker swearing in English, it doesn't convey the feeling.

I would also add that shite is a stronger word in my profanisaurus.

In order of 'sweariness'

That book was shite
That book was shit
That book was crap
That book was poo (poop)

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    In decreasing order of sweariness, you mean? If so, I agree other than to swap the first two. – Poldie May 12 '14 at 7:43
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    No, shite is a polited form of shit. – Andrew Leach May 12 '14 at 7:56
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    Surely these rankings are largely subjective. FWIW, I've always ranked 'crap' as 'worse' than 'shit', which appears in the KJV. – Edwin Ashworth May 12 '14 at 8:04
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    @Poldie I'm not sure we can import anything from Scotland unless and until they choose independence. And I think we should avoid shite; N Sea gas is OK. – Edwin Ashworth May 12 '14 at 8:26
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    @Frank Questions that are/turn out to prompt only overly subjective answers are off-topic. Your 'completely subjective' has prompted my close vote (though when you think about it, labelling a question 'calls for opinions rather than factual answers' is also subjective). – Edwin Ashworth May 12 '14 at 8:31

Perceptions may well have been influenced over the last 20 years or so by so influential a figure as B Simpson using the word 'crap' freely, as Frank mentions. Perhaps there are regional differences in taboo-ranking; Collins reflects my perception (in the UK) that 'crap' is the more taboo. (AHD doesn't differentiate wrt degree of tabooness.) From previous contributions here, the general situation in the US seems to be the opposite. But subjectiveness is unavoidable in these areas.


AHD: shit Vulgar Slang

Collins: [no warning tag]


AHD: crap 1 Vulgar Slang

Collins: Usage: This word was formerly considered to be taboo, and it was labelled as such in previous editions of Collins English Dictionary. However, it has now become acceptable in speech, although some older or more conservative people may object to its use


Crap is generally considered more acceptable than shit.


To me, your second example is more rude. According to Ngram it is also the most used.

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    According to the Ngram, it's the most used in published writing. – J.R. Feb 11 '15 at 10:11

While degrees of offensiveness are hard to quantify, and YMMV, I'd argue that "crap" is less offensive than "shit", for a purely practical reason. There exists a widespread and popular dice game called "craps", and its use serves to keep "crap" from becoming an entirely offensive word.


'Crap' derives from the name of Mr Thomas Crapper, the Victorian sanitary engineer who developed the then existing flushing water closet. And whilst 'crap' is less offensive as a term for excrement than 'shit', it is still not something one uses in polite company.

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    Sorry, that myth was busted... it is an amusing reference though :) – oerkelens May 12 '14 at 7:20
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    I'm afraid the Crapper story is, well... crap. See the discussion at wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=18793 – Erik Kowal May 12 '14 at 7:23
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    Thomas Crapper born 1836, first reference to crap 1846 in the OED apparently as 'crapping ken'; an outside toilet. I think we can stop all this crap now. :) – Frank May 12 '14 at 7:44
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    Well, if Anita McConnell explains how Mr.Crap at the tender age of ten gave rise to his name being used in this way, both the accredited historian and the OED (not the lowliest of references I'd think) can still both be right :) – oerkelens May 12 '14 at 7:47
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    @WS2 - Perhaps you'd care to refute the information in the debunking instead of simply behaving like a toddler who has been refused cake. – Erik Kowal May 12 '14 at 7:47

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