Why Is Gonorrhea Called The Clap?

Gonorrhea is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is easily spread because individuals with the disease are often symptomless. When symptoms are present they can include thick white or yellow/greenish discharge, painful urination, increased urination, sore throat and severe pain in lower abdomen. Gonorrhea has a nasty habit of occurring alongside chlamydia.

Gonorrhea, also known as “The Clap” or “The Drip,” can be transmitted by vaginal, anal or oral sex. Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with antibiotics. There are a few theories behind why gonorrhea is referred to as The Clap:

Theory #1:
From the old French word for brothel: “Clapier.

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Prostitutes were housed in clapiers (brothels). In Middle French language dating back to around the 1580s, “clapier” is also used to refer to a rabbit’s nest or hutch. Due to the prolific sex lives rabbits lead, it makes sense that a brothel might be named after it. It’s also quite fitting that a moniker for an STD might arise from a location where such diseases and infections are easily (and often) spread.

As such, the disease became known as clapier bubo (or clapior bubo) in French. A bubo is an inflamed lymph node or infection in the groin area, so clapier bubo would be an infection of the groin received after visiting a brothel.


Theory #2:
From a terrible treatment form that involved clapping hard on both sides of the penis simultaneously to try to rid the urethra of pus/discharge.

This theory is sure to make anyone grimace in disgust and pain. This “treatment” could also involve essentially clapping (or smashing) the penis between a hard surface and a heavy item like a large book. We, obviously, do not recommend this at all.


Theory #3:
From the old English word “clappan” meaning to beat or to throb.

This could be an origin for gonorrhea’s byname stemming from common symptoms of the STD– burning, painful urination and a throbbing sensation of the penis caused by inflammation and infection. However, it seems that this word originated sometime after the French “clapier.”

Gonorrhea is also sometimes referred to as “The Drip.” This nickname comes about by the grossly visual symptom of an infected penis that leaks and drips discharge. Icky, we know.

No matter where the name ‘the Clap’ comes from, getting tested for gonorrhea is something we can all clap too! Help stop the spread of this all-too-common disease that has been around for hundreds of years by learning your status.

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Medically Reviewed by on October 1, 2018 - Written by STDcheck Editorial Team.

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