Top 10 Harmless Words (That Sound Incredibly Offensive)


There are a number of words you simply cannot say in conversation: the C word, the N word, Voldemort, among many more. However, there are words out there that you can say, that you probably think you shouldn’t or can’t. These words aren’t super offensive; they just sound like they are. Words like …

10. Feck


Right off the bat, this word is literally one vowel away from putting this website on your work’s block list. How can a word that close to forcing this page to pay royalties to Samuel L. Jackson not be offensive?

Well, it’s because in Ireland and Scotland, where the word is used most often, it isn’t offensive at all; at worst, it’s a very minor curse word that’s acceptable in public. In fact, there have been numerous cases where Scottish and Irish speakers have defended their right to use the word in court. For example, an Irish cider company won the right to use the word in an ad that would be openly displayed in public. The word has been accepted to the point where “feck” was uttered dozens, if not hundreds, of times during the prime-time airing of the show “Father Ted” without complaint.

We highly advise people out there to use this word as often as possible, if only because a world with more Irish accents is one we want to live in. The following word, on the other hand, is one you should probably use sparingly.

9. Niggardly


If you happen to be reading this with a complexion that rivals that of bleached porcelain, we’d advise you not to use this word. Not because it’s offensive (because it isn’t,) but because people are stupid.

The word “niggardly” actually means to be stingy, but due to its obvious syntactical similarities with one of naughtiest words you can possibly say, people often hear it, and lose their mind. Seriously, there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to all the times someone has used this word and gotten in trouble for it. People have lost their jobs for using this word.

Oddly, niggardly predates the way-more-offensive N-word by a few hundred years, but due to the phonetic similarity, it’s fallen into disuse in recent years. We’re not saying you can’t use this word, but it’d probably just be easier to simply say “stingy” than explain that you’re not being racist every time you open your mouth.

8. Honky


Honky is the white equivalent of the N-word, though it has seen other uses in the past. As a not-famous-enough-for-us-to-actually-remember-their-name person once said, “if you’re trying to decide which of two words is more offensive and you can’t say one of those words, that’s the offensive one.”

But it’s not just the lack of perceived offence behind the word honky that makes it inoffensive; it’s the fact that historically, the word has been openly embraced by the white community as a show of solidarity with the black community. In the 1960s for example, white supporters of the Black Panthers proudly wore badges exclaiming “Honkies for Huey!” Huey being one Huey Newton, who was a prominent and founding member of the Panthers.

7. Wench


If you walked into a bar and said, “hey wench, bring me a beer,” you’d likely end up picking the pieces of broken bottle out of your nose, before calling for an ambulance to help you recover from the makeup-covered whirlwind that just handed you your ass.

However, in certain parts of England, most notably the West Country, you’d just get a beer. That’s because the word actually just means young girl,” and can be seen as a term of endearment. It’s because we always imagine vikings yelling this at women that we’ve come to see it as offensive, when in reality it’s just a really awkward way of saying “I can’t read your name tag.”

Though in the past the term could mean, “servant girl” or “prostitute” — which is where we’re assuming the offence can come from — this is noted as being the archaic meaning of the word. On the other hand, we don’t think it’s worth the gamble to try pulling this off in public, so just stick to nodding and smiling politely. It’s easier.

6. Dyke


Prior to a few years ago, the word “dyke” was one meant to cause great offence to women who happened to enjoy the company of other women. However, the word, sometimes spelled “dike,” is actually a completely non-offensive, geological term which refers to sheets of rock. As proof of how messed up the English language is, the same word can be used to cause offense to a gay woman and refer to a sheet of igneous rock. How do people today not have tongues that are 8 feet long thanks to speaking a language this complex?

Today, the term has been re-appropriated by the lesbian community, who decided that they liked the word too much for it to be offensive, and so they made it their own. Perhaps the most notable usage is by the group Dykes On Bikes, a group of openly gay women who ride around on motorcycles, which is possibly the greatest sentence we’ve ever written on this site.

5. Bastard


Bastard is seen as one of the more offensive swear words out there, and you’d be hard pressed to get it aired on TV. However, the true meaning of the word (a person born out of wedlock) is lost on a lot of people. In the past, this was a huge taboo, thus making the word incredibly offensive.

However, in recent years, being born to parents who aren’t married is incredibly commonplace, and many have taken it upon themselves to remove the sting from the term. This is no better demonstrated than by Bastard Nation, a group dedicated to the rights of adopted children and adults, who have taken the term and made it their own. Thanks to people like them, bastard is fast becoming just another word you can yell in a library.

4. Gaylord


Gaylord sounds exactly like the kind of thing you’d hear 12-year-olds yelling at each other over X-Box Live. The weird part is, technically, those kids would have a small chance of actually addressing someone by their actual, real world name.

Yes, Gaylord is a name. And not just a name, but one that has belonged to more than its fair share of famous badasses, like Scott Gaylord, a righteous NASCAR racer, and Gaylord Perry, a Hall Of Fame baseball pitcher who could probably kill you with a fastball before you finish your lame joke about the word written on the back of his jersey. But when it comes to almost-offensive last names, you have to give it the …

3. Focker


You probably recognize the name Focker from the Meet The Fockers movie and its prequel, Meet The Parents. In Meet The Parents, though the name Focker plays a part, it isn’t an important part of the movie, so censors let it slide. However, when Meet The Fockers rolled around, they were worried it would be deemed offensive. So the censors told the producers they couldn’t name the movie Meet The Fockers until they found people who actually had that last name. So they did. As a bonus, the main character’s first name is Gaylord, meaning that movie censors watched an entire movie revolving around Gaylord Focker, and then declared it suitable for children to watch. Boy, do we love Hollywood now.

2. Smeg


To people reading this who happen to be fans of British sitcoms, the word smeg is the all-purpose insult used in the Red Dwarf universe. The word was originally thought up specifically to avoid censors, purely because, well, it sounded really dirty. However, maybe it sounded too dirty, because it was noted by some that the word was almost a shortened version of the word “smegma,” which is the word used to describe … well … Google it if you have a strong stomach.

However, the writers have remained coy about the word’s origins, and whether or not it’s as dirty as it sounds. We do know, however, that the word was added to the Oxford English dictionary where it is listed as “a general expletive” that is perhaps “an invented word” that was “popularized by the TV show Red Dwarf.”So we’ll let you decide if the writers were either really smart and invented a dirty sounding word, or they just took one that was filthy as hell and shortened it. Either way, it’s in the dictionary now, so you can at the very least you can say it in school.

1. Fag/Faggot


Perhaps one of the most offensive words in the world at the moment, is actually not at all a thing in certain parts of the UK. Not because they’re more reserved, or because their British sensibilities stop them from taking offence, but because over there, the words mean something else entirely.

Fag, for example, is a colloquial term for cigarette in the UK, and uttering it in public wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eyelid (unless they’re militant anti-smokers.) Faggot, on the other hand, is a traditional meat dish made from dozens of cuts of meat being stuck together; you know, classy British stuff. Though the dish isn’t that popular, even in the UK, some people have been trying to change that, leading to hilarious (for Americans) BBC articles titled “Family of faggot fans fly the flag.”

Of course, you have to be careful about using any of these words in polite conversation, but come on — you have to admit that it’s pretty cool that you could use the sentence “Wench, don’t be so niggardly with those faggots,” and not be punched in the face. Well, maybe it’s not cool. And you probably would get punched in the face anyway. But it sure is interesting at least.

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  1. IndyAndyJones on

    Calling someone stingy is offensive. Strike 2 toptenz (but only because I’m being very generous with your many, many, many faults)

  2. Being from Devon (west country) wench will still get you a punch… well not really as British people tend to either brush that sort of thing off or just think your a stupid twat and ask you to leave, then they often do.

  3. Dyke is another name for a wall in Scotland. Cross the dyke being a very popular game in playgrounds.

  4. Most offensive thing in this article was number eight – not citing the comedian who gave you that quote. I’m not saying I remember his name either (Google) however I’m not writing an article about it. I do remember it was about the word midget versus the N word (see I didn’t write it… which one’s worse according to the quote?). As to the overall point of the article I totally agree we put too much emphasis on the sounds that come out of our meat holes.

  5. Not sure why Perry would have his first name on the back of his jersey, but good list none the less.

  6. If you tasted a faggot you’d find it to be no more than a large meatball.

    Another use of the word ‘Faggot’ is for fuel for a fire.

    Stay classy.

  7. Britain is now becoming more and more Americanised and the vast majority of British youngsters are aware of the offensive meaning of the word faggot. We just watch too much TV

  8. One of my ex colleague, with Indian roots has for first name Ashish. It means benediction in Hindi, but you can imagine the reaction of people, especially the police, when he is asked for his first name…..