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Why are swear words considered swear words?

Updated on July 3, 2012
Using words to curse others, invoking deities and glorifying defiling acts are some of the purposes associated with swear words.
Using words to curse others, invoking deities and glorifying defiling acts are some of the purposes associated with swear words.

Words Have More Power Than You Think

Words are powerful tools. They can build you up or tear you down. They can be used to bless you and your actions or curse what you are doing. Although they are powerful tools, you may not always grasp the power of the words you are using. The words known as ‘swear words’ are the ones that were associated with cursing, swearing, invoking and general irreverence. When it comes to using words for negative purposes, some words are considered more offensive than others. The offensive words are often labeled as “Cuss words”, “Curse Words” or swear words. Although many words have been arbitrarily put into this category based on their offensive quality, there are some that have a history of being used in curses or for swear purposes. Words like ‘damn’ definitely have a curse or swear origin. In ancient times, when someone made an agreement, they were often sealed with a swearing. The swearing was often a statement of the curses that would come upon them for not fulfilling the agreement.

Besides being used as a way of ‘sealing’ agreements, they were also used to call down curses upon your enemies or those who offend you. Although you may consider yourself civilized and modern, you may still act like a shaman and call down curses upon those who offend you. In some cases, you may still use swear words to seal an agreement about what you will do or will not do. A close cousin to the sealing of an agreement is when you ask for the help of a deity or supernatural force to bring down or invoke a curse upon those who offend you. These situations involve the invoking of the deities name for the purpose of bringing down a curse. Some deities looked unfavorably on their followers using their name in vain, just to satisfy some personal grudge or offense. For this reason, there were penalties associated with using the name of a deity in association with calling down a curse that was for a personal reason. Despite the origins of such practices with worship, many 21st century moderns act like ancient acolytes, invoking the name of a deity in association with calling down a curse.

Some of the words now considered swear words are also associated with offensive acts. Since some of the ancient worship practices involved participation in offensive acts, making light of them and talking about them boldly was a way of showing allegiance to the deity or lifestyle associated with following them. It was a way of pledging or swearing allegiance to that deity. By making reference to the offensive acts without hesitation, the modern swears an association with practices that previous generations associated with the worship of pagan deities. Many of the modern uses of swear words involve a modern type of cursing people.

The modern curse often involves using swear words to belittle or objectify a person. When the person doing the cursing manages to ‘objectify’ their target, they no longer view them as a person, but rather as a ‘thing’ to be used. When a person is turned into a thing, the one who cursed them no longer feels bad for hurting them or offending them. When they are turned into an object, the curser often feels a sense of relief and unleashing swear words at their target. In their mind, the target deserves being called those names. They deserve being cursed. They deserve being the target of the many swear words.

Modern use of swear words has often desensitized people to the cruelty they have shown others and inhumane acts. It is also tragic that many of you have invoked the names of deities to bring down curses, yet think nothing of it, until events in your life are no longer pleasant. You may wonder ‘why’ things are not working out and ‘why’ your life is one cursed thing after another. If you asked ancient wise men, they would tell you that you cursed the world around you, vainly swore and asked curses to strike others and then you wonder why there is no positive energy or blessings around you. Swear words still have power. They can create negative feelings and push people away. There is a reason that they have negative associations.

Although you may think that words are just words, take ten minutes and try this. Rattle off as many swear words as you can. Notice what you are feeling. Are you energized or drained? Try the same thing with words of blessing and wishing the best toward those around you or whoever comes to mind. After ten minutes notice how you feel. Can you tell the difference? This twenty minute test may help you make a difference in the world around you.

After initially posting this article, I came across a quote that I found eloquent in conveying a truth about swear words. ‎"The constant use of profanity is the feeble effort of a weak mind trying to express itself with force." After thinking on this one a while, I considered the people in my life who constantly use profanity and realized that the author of the quote understood something. In most cases, the swear words were attempts at adding power and force to what was being said. Those resorting to swear words were often the people who did not have either the vocabulary of the intellect to express themselves any better.


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    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you for reading the hub and the vote up. It makes me happy that you found it interesting.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      Interesting article. voted up!

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you for the vote up!

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 

      6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Interesting article! Voted up! I agree being positive, thinking feeling and speaking is always preferable to the opposite - negative thinking, speaking or speaking.

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      When I came across the question, I thought that it was worth spending some time answering. We need more parents like yours who are taught to be conscious about what they say and do. The world would be a better place for it.

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you for the support. I am glad that you enjoyed it. I find that most people cuss without giving it a second thought. If they did, they probably would choose not to.

    • LisaKoski profile image


      6 years ago from WA

      This is a fascinating topic. I tend not to use many swear words unless I'm really angry for whatever reason but even then it's pretty rare. My parents raised my siblings and I to be conscious of every word that comes out of our mouths since it reflects what kind of person you are.

    • carter06 profile image


      6 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      I really enjoyed this hub and your information on doubt to many who swear they are just words & don't mean much but you really makes us think about it & love the 20 minute test...well done votes & sharing...cheers

    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      6 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you for the kind words. To me, positive always feels better than negative.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interest and I am sure I know the outcome of that test. It is positive verses negative. Good write. Voted up.


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