Is a snitch bad? Etymology of the word, roots and modern application

Table of contents:

Is a snitch bad? Etymology of the word, roots and modern application
Is a snitch bad? Etymology of the word, roots and modern application

Sharing information, news and events with other people is an integral part of socialization. Gossip stirs up interest by maintaining rumors and popularity for certain personalities. But then why is a snitch a negative term for a person providing data, and where does it come from?


Reporting the employee to the manager

Jargon is used everywhere, having long been entrenched in slang as part of the modern Russian language. Now the meaning of the word "snitch" has several variations:

  • A person who freely spoke about someone else's secret, secret, trouble, illegal actions.
  • Traitor supplying personal information to law enforcement.
  • A person who profits by denouncing another person.

Having found out that a snitch means an unscrupulous person who cannot be trusted, one should learn about the formation of the word. When comparing phrases and associations, it is difficult to determine the appearance of such a person.

Historical roots

Originthe word is connected with the history of the world, since it goes far into the past, having undergone lexical transformations when borrowing meaning and forming a familiar look.

In Ancient Greece, an informer who betrayed a master or groundlessly pinned a crime on another citizen under a false pretext was called a "sycophant". Literally translated as slanderer, blackmailer.

Ancient Rome believed that the "delatorium" or "snitch" are informants closely associated with the judicial system. The legal structure of that century was built in such a way that any person could inform on a neighbor and initiate proceedings. It was not uncommon for delatoriums to make false accusations against we althy people in order to get some of their confiscated property for irregular tax payments.

With the advent of the Catholic Church, the Congregation of the Index appeared, where the famous Holy Inquisition also participated. Employees of the organization had a negative connotation, comparable to what the word snitch means. The Pope kept records with the names of regular informers who received a salary for the uniqueness of the data.

Anonymous confesses to watching the crime

In England in 1785, when the country was overtaken by famine and theft was actively developed, an “informant” began to be called a person who sells useful information about people. Previously, such a meaning was attached to the phrase "flick on the nose" in the 1670s. In underworld slang, she meant excessive curiosity. "Informator" gained the greatest popularity at the beginning of the 19th century and was assigned to all unscrupulous people who were wasteful of personalsecrets and family secrets.

In Russia, at the turn of the 20th century, it was believed that a snitch was a night watchman who used a wooden device to strike the clock while walking around the territory.

Fist fighters performing in arenas or competitions got a similar name. They walked in a crowd, took bets to win and tried to earn extra money with physical strength. It was believed that where the snitch hit, there would be a hole.

Criminal slang

Homer got the nickname "snitch" in prison

In the second half of the 20th century, when the USSR was formed, the word acquired a negative meaning among Russian people. The imprisoned prisoners who remained in solitary confinement continued to communicate with the help of tapping. Often the prisoners wrote the alphabet themselves so that the prison guards could not catch the thread of the conversation. The transmission time of one letter varied up to two minutes, which indicates the slowness of the method, but it also helped not to be left alone.

"Knocking" in a broad sense began to be used as a "secret talk". Initially, it referred to a harmless transfer of information between two prisoners, but later turned into an offensive form.


The expression is found in the prison environment and modern slang, denoting deliberate betrayal and reporting the facts to third parties. Similar words for the meaning of "snitch" are highlighted in the plain dictionary of Krylov G.A.:

  • Sneak.
  • Scammer.
  • Traitor.
  • Whistleblower.
  • Informant.
  • Agent.

So paraphrasing helps to choose a more delicate designation, not supported by a negative connotation.

Modern application

The word is used in a negative light, showing the worst personality traits - betrayal, not keeping secrets, excessive talkativeness.

The address "rat" is used in an insulting form. In a figurative sense, indicates an invasion of personal territory with further theft of resources. The last to come out are data on the deeds of people.

Prisoners do not like denunciations about themselves

Adolescents use the word not in a harsh, rude form, slipping into speech as an offensive statement, taken from the established jargon in Russian films, free author's narration in books or in ordinary conversation.

Negative coloration

The attitude of the people to the unscrupulous power structure has played a negative role for most of the employees since the Soviet era. So in ancient Rome - the government was valued and respected by the locals, as in Greece, because it acted fairly. The events of the Second World War endangered the country, spoiled foreign and domestic policy, bringing the institution of power in an unscrupulous light of governance.

Motivated by cash, we alth, reputation, career or saving the lives of loved ones, a snitch is not necessarily an adult, it could be a child or a pensioner. In a criminal environment, the highest level of betrayal was considered to be giving evidence against another authoritative prisoner.

Wiretapping for the informant

The positive color of the denunciation is attributed to police officers acting on the side of the law and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The benefits of being a "snitch" were also revealed when testifying in the courtroom to record the criminal actions of intruders.

So a person who provides data to the authorities or officials, in particular, is perceived negatively by society.

Popular topic