Why Is Gonorrhea Called The Clap?

July 25, 2018

Gonorrhea is a highly contagious STI caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. It is often symptomless, but if the symptoms do occur, they usually include painful and increased urination, yellow/greenish discharge, severe pain in the lower abdomen, and a sore throat. If you suspect recent exposure to this STD, it is essential that you test for gonorrhea and notify your sexual partners to do the same as soon as possible. 

Having said this, it is time to move on to our today’s topic. Namely, you may know that gonorrhea is commonly referred to as the clap (or the drip). If you have no idea why this term is used for gonorrhea, keep reading as we explore a couple of potential theories about the origins of the nickname.

Why Is Gonorrhea Called The Clap?

The First Theory

The word clapier means brothel in old French. Around the 1580s, this word was also used for rabbit nests or hutches. Due to the prolific sex lives of rabbits, it made sense to start using the word for brothers as well. It also made sense for an STD such as gonorrhea to be named after a location where it was commonly found.

Gonorrhea, therefore, became known as clapier bubo in French. The term bubo is used to denote inflamed lymph nodes or any other infection located in the groin area, so clapier bubo literally means ”a growing infection received after visiting a brothel.”

The Second Theory

Gonorrhea also may have received its nickname from an excruciating treatment that consisted of clapping hard on the penis to rid the urethra of discharge or pus. Apart from clapping on both sides of the penis simultaneously with one’s hands, this “treatment” could also be performed by clapping the penis with two heavy items. 

The Third Theory

Finally, gonorrhea’s nickname may have originated from the old English word clappan, which means to throb or to beat. It refers to the infection’s most common symptoms, which include a throbbing sensation in the penis and painful urination. 

What About The Drip?

Some people also use the word the drip when talking about gonorrhea. You do not have to look for historical theories behind the origins of this nickname, as the term is pretty graphic and self-explanatory. Namely, it points to one of the most common symptoms of the infection, an infected penis that drips and leaks discharge. 


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