The English use of the adjective bloody as a vulgar, slang or swear word has caused a lot of consternation and bewilderment, amongst the English, for whom the origins of this use are lost in the mists of time, and amongst Americans, who consider it quaint. In the latter half of the 20th Century, since sex has superseded war and religion as one of the major preoccupations of the English-speaking world (the other, of course, is money), it has become popular to associate the word with menstrual discharge, but this is unlikely to have been in the minds of those who first made this usage popular, no matter whether they were warlike Saxons setting sail from mainland Europe cursing the 'bloedig' weather, or their descendants of any era taking umbrage at something that displeased them.

In fact the origins of this use of the word are not difficult to reconstruct plausibly. The purpose of a swear word used in anger is typically to denigrate the object of one's ire, and so a hated thing will be considered 'tainted', either in a spiritual sense (unholy, cursed, damned), or a physical sense (dirty, bloody, shitty). Perhaps because of its vagueness and ambiguity, or its colourful implications, or simply because it sounds good, 'bloody' then quickly becomes not only an adjective conferring dishonour and loathing, but also a superlative, indicating an extra degree of abhorrence and anger about an already despised thing ('bloody fool', 'bloody idiot', and the phrase most commonly heard in England, 'bloody weather').

'Bloody oath!'

This use of bloody came from the practice of oath-making, as in upon God's oath!, thus upon God's bloody oath! (blood making any oath more profound).

Upon God's oath! probably became softened to euphemisms such as gosh, golly etc.; upon God's bloody oath! eventually became bloody oath!


See also absobloodylutely

Another etymology that is sometimes cited is that it is an contraction of "by Our Lady" -- "Our Lady" of course being the Virgin Mary. Over time "by Our Lady" became "bloody". Hence the drink that is commonly known as a bloody Mary.

Blood"y (?), a. [AS. bldig.]

1.

Containing or resembling blood; of the nature of blood; as, bloody excretions; bloody sweat.

2.

Smeared or stained with blood; as, bloody hands; a bloody handkerchief.

3.

Given, or tending, to the shedding of blood; having a cruel, savage disposition; murderous; cruel.

Some bloody passion shakes your very frame. Shak.

4.

Attended with, or involving, bloodshed; sanguinary; esp., marked by great slaughter or cruelty; as, a bloody battle.

5.

Infamous; contemptible; -- variously used for mere emphasis or as a low epithet.

[Vulgar]

Thackeray.

 

© Webster 1913.


Blood"y, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Bloodied (); p. pr. & vb. n. Bloodying.]

To stain with blood.

Overbury.

 

© Webster 1913.

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