If you’ve listened to rap music for the better part of the last decade, then you’ve likely heard the word “thot.” Megan Thee Stallion says it in the very title of her most recent hit, “Thot Shit.” Wale says it on Lorde's "Royals (Remix).” Fabolous says it in “Cuffin Season.” There are even entire playlists dedicated to “thot anthems.” You also may have heard the term used to describe women or girls on social media who highlight their sexuality. “Instagram thot” and “TikTok thot” are two terms, for example, that have become more popular. But what exactly is a thot and is it ever okay to use the word?
What does “thot” mean and where did it come from?
Originating in the Chicago rap scene, the term T.H.O.T. is an acronym for “that hoe over there” or “thirsty hoe over there.” It’s pronounced “thawt” or “thought,” and can be pluralized to “thotties.” Colloquially, a thot is defined as “a woman considered to be sexually provocative or promiscuous” and it’s usually used as an epithet for someone who often posts revealing or sexy “thirst traps” on social media. Thot-type “behavior” on apps like TikTok may include dancing to music that prominently features booty-shaking, shimmying, and/or extreme hip movements.
The term was first used by Katie Got Bandz, Chief Keef, and his crew in 2012. One of the first rappers to put the word in a song, Katie’s song “Ridin Around and We Drillin” included it and then Keef’s “Love No Thotties” came out shortly after, furthering the spark of the word around the country.
Is “thot” a problematic word?
The term “thot” may be deemed problematic when it’s meant to demean or shame a person for expressing their sexuality. There are many complicated layers to the word that warrant taking a deeper look.
Because the term is mostly directed at women, it is also rooted in misogyny. In her essay “Death to the word ‘Thot,’” Veronica Wells implored readers of MadameNoire.com to consider that the term is “problematic and misogynistic because, once again, women are being punished for being sexually expressive while men, who behave similarly, are given a pass and a pat on the back.” Wells continues, “It’s played, wack and discriminatory. And if you don’t believe so, ask yourself what is the male equivalent of a THOT?”
Outside of misogyny, the term also has class status and race elements embedded in it. In a Slate article titled “A Thot Is Not a Slut: The Popular Insult Is More About Race and Class Than Sex,” writer Amanda Hess explained that thots are often dissed on sight simply by how they look and what they wear as opposed to their actual sexual escapades — defying what the term seems to imply.
Breaking down “the archetypical thot as constructed through memes circulated on Instagram and Twitter,” Hess explains how they drink cheap alcohol, use Metro PCS phone cards, and shop at malls. “She has a beauty mark piercing on her upper lip, just as the ‘tramps’ who came before her sported tattoos on their lower backs.” Hess adds that many of the memes claim thots are women named “Jasmine” or “Sasha.” The most notable part, Hess says, is that “most of the time, she’s Black.”
“If women are products, then thots are cheap goods. More than that, they’re knockoffs: low-quality merchandise that attempts to masquerade as luxury items,” says Hess.
Using the term as a means of denigrating someone’s social status or race is deeply problematic, but it also plays into the extremely fraught stereotypes that exist about Black women. Specifically, there’s an archetype where Black women are sometimes painted as “immoral, sexually promiscuous, and sexually available” and careless use of the term can perpetuate a racist and classist narrative.
Is it ever okay to call someone a thot?
While the word “thot” may originally be rooted in misogyny, words and phrases like this can evolve over time. Depending on how the word holds meaning for you, it can be okay to use.
Think about how the meaning of the word “slut” has shapeshifted over the years. While it’s still used negatively by some, many women have chosen to take back the word and rebrand it as something else. Perhaps the most notable example of this is SlutWalk, a global movement that calls for an end to rape culture and blaming victims of sexual assault. It came about after a Canadian police officer suggested that "women should avoid dressing like sluts" in an effort to avoid getting sexually assaulted; the “advice” inspired participants to reclaim the word.
In the case of “thot,” timing is also significant: Hess’ piece in Slate and Wells’ piece in MadameNoire.com were written in 2014, when the word was still solidifying its place in the world’s vernacular. Fast forward seven years when Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Thot Shit” came out and the connotation, particularly coming from a Black female rapper, takes on a completely different tone. The song embraces the word and turns it from an epithet to an empowering message for women: “Thot Shit” is a perfect example of how a problematic term can be reclaimed and retooled to send a very different message. In this way, a person may deem themselves a self-proclaimed thot, and use the word to signify a celebration of sexual freedom.
So, how do I use and/or not use “thot”?
So long as you are using the word “thot” to celebrate your own sexuality or the sexuality of others, the term can be fun to include in your vocabulary. We highly recommend any and all of these thot puns compiled by Complex, which include, but are not limited to, “Thot pocket,” “Thottin on the low/Schemin on the low,” and “Penny for your thot.” We also recommend getting down to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot Shit” because it’s an absolute banger.
Other instances of it being okay: Calling yourself a “thot” when you’re feeling sexy, rapping it along with a song, and helping your friend craft an Instagram caption like, “Hot thottie”.
We’d not recommend you call anyone you don’t know a thot, but most of all we implore you to use your judgment. If you’re using the word to bring someone else down or make them feel like their sexual history or expression is shameful or a problem, then you shouldn’t be saying it.
What are some good alternatives to using the term thot?
The English language is rife with a plethora of great options for complimenting someone for being sexually free that don’t necessarily need to include thot!
“Hot,” “sexy,” “alluring,” “sensual,” “sultry,” “foxy,” and “spicy” are all solid replacements for thot if the context of the compliment is that they look downright GOOD. If you really want to keep up with the Gen Z crowd, we’d also suggest “baddie.”
The bottom line
The key thing to remember is that context is everything. The term “thot” is rooted in complex and problematic ideals about women and it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re thinking about using the word in your own life. On the flip side, we recommend blasting “Thot Shit” while you get yourself hyped up for your day. You’ll feel like the biggest baddie in town.