The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is a vulgar and dismissive saying used to indicate indifference or a lack of concern about something. Many people are curious about the origins and meaning behind this rather impolite expression.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” means that someone does not care at all about something. It originated in the early 20th century as a more vulgar version of the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s behind”.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the history of this phrase, break down its meaning, and look at some examples of how it is used in modern language.

The Literal Meaning of the Phrase

The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” may seem unusual and even amusing, but it actually has a literal meaning. Let’s explore what this phrase signifies and how it came to be.

References the Rear End of a Rat

The first part of the phrase, “rat’s ass,” refers to the posterior or rear end of a rat. This may sound strange, but it is a euphemistic way of expressing a lack of concern or interest. Just like the saying “I don’t give a damn,” the phrase uses a part of the body to symbolize indifference.

While the origin of the specific choice of a rat’s behind is not entirely clear, it is likely because rats are commonly associated with filth and unpleasantness. Therefore, using their posterior as a symbol of something unimportant or insignificant makes sense in the context of this phrase.

Expresses Extreme Indifference or Disinterest

The second part of the phrase, “I don’t give a,” indicates a complete lack of interest or concern about a particular matter. It is an expression of indifference and often used to convey a strong sense of apathy or nonchalance.

When someone says “I don’t give a rat’s ass,” they are essentially saying that they have absolutely no interest or care whatsoever about the subject at hand. It is a way of dismissing or downplaying its importance in a rather colorful and humorous manner.

This phrase is often used in casual conversations, especially when someone wants to emphasize their lack of interest or to convey their frustration with a particular situation. It can be seen as a more lighthearted and creative way of expressing indifference than using more straightforward language.

So the next time you hear someone say “I don’t give a rat’s ass,” remember that it is not just a nonsensical phrase. It has a literal meaning that refers to the rear end of a rat and is used to signify extreme indifference or disinterest.

Origins and Early Usage

Rose to Prominence in Early 20th Century America

The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” may sound crass, but its origins can be traced back to early 20th century America. It first gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, becoming a common expression among people looking for a way to express their indifference or lack of concern.

This phrase quickly made its way into everyday conversations and colloquial speech, solidifying its place in American vernacular.

Originally a Euphemistic Alternative

Interestingly, “I don’t give a rat’s ass” was actually a euphemistic alternative to a more explicit phrase used to convey a similar sentiment. The original phrase, which included a more explicit reference to a certain part of the human anatomy, was considered too vulgar for polite conversation.

As a result, people started using the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” as a less offensive way to express their indifference or disinterest in a particular matter.

Used in Military Slang During WWII

The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” gained further popularity during World War II, particularly among soldiers serving in the military. It became a part of military slang, used to express a soldier’s disregard for rules, regulations, or orders.

The stressful and dangerous conditions of war often led soldiers to adopt a more casual and irreverent language, and this phrase perfectly captured their sentiments of defiance and nonchalance.

According to military records, the phrase was commonly used among soldiers during the war, serving as a way to cope with the harsh realities they faced. It provided a release of tension and a sense of camaraderie among the troops, allowing them to bond over a shared sense of indifference.

Although its usage may have been more prevalent during wartime, the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” has endured throughout the years and continues to be used today as a way to convey a strong sense of apathy or indifference towards a particular situation.

Modern Usage and Examples

Prevalent in Informal Language

The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” has become increasingly prevalent in modern informal language. It is often used in casual conversations, social media posts, and even in movies and TV shows. While it may be considered crude or vulgar by some, it has gained popularity as a way to express indifference or apathy towards a particular situation or topic.

This phrase has become a part of everyday vernacular, with people using it to convey a strong sense of disregard or nonchalance. It is often used to emphasize a lack of interest or concern, adding a touch of humor or sarcasm to the conversation.

Used to Dismiss or Reject Something

One of the main purposes of using the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is to dismiss or reject something. It can be used to express a strong disinterest in a subject or to convey a sense of indifference towards someone’s opinion or request.

For example, if someone suggests a movie that you have no interest in watching, you might respond with a witty remark like, “I don’t give a rat’s ass about that movie.” This phrase serves as a humorous and assertive way to reject the suggestion without causing offense.

It is important to note that while this phrase can be used to express a lack of care, it should be used with caution and in appropriate contexts. It may not be suitable for formal or professional settings, where a more polite and respectful response is expected.

Appears in Pop Culture and Media

The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” has also made its way into popular culture and media. It is frequently used in movies, TV shows, and music, further solidifying its place in modern language.

From classic films to contemporary television series, this phrase has been adopted by characters to showcase their nonchalant attitudes or to add a touch of rebelliousness to their personalities. Its usage in pop culture has contributed to its widespread recognition and acceptance.

Additionally, the phrase can be found in song lyrics, where it is used to convey a sense of defiance or indifference. Artists from various genres have incorporated it into their music, making it a memorable and often catchy part of their songs.

Alternative Versions and Related Phrases

While “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is a colorful and often humorous phrase, it is by no means the only expression used to convey a similar sentiment. There are several alternative versions and related phrases that people use to express their lack of concern or indifference towards a particular situation or person.

Let’s explore some of these variations:

“Not Give a Damn”

One of the most commonly used alternatives to “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is the phrase “not give a damn.” This expression dates back to the 18th century and has been widely used in literature, movies, and everyday conversations.

It carries a similar meaning, indicating a complete lack of interest or concern about something.

In fact, the word “damn” has been used in various phrases throughout history to express indifference or disregard. It is a strong word that adds emphasis to the speaker’s lack of care or concern. While less colorful than the original phrase, “not give a damn” remains a popular choice for those who want to convey their apathy.

“Not Give a Hoot”

Another alternative to “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is the phrase “not give a hoot.” This expression is often considered a milder version, suitable for more polite or formal situations where the use of stronger language may not be appropriate.

Instead of using a vulgar or crude term, “hoot” is used to signify a complete lack of interest or concern.

The phrase “not give a hoot” is believed to have originated in the early 20th century and has since become a popular alternative in English-speaking countries. It is often used in a lighthearted or joking manner, making it a favorite choice among those who want to express their indifference with a touch of humor.

“Not Give a Shit”

A more explicit alternative to “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is the phrase “not give a shit.” While this expression may be considered cruder or more vulgar than the others, it is still commonly used in informal conversations or among close friends.

It conveys a strong sense of indifference or disregard, emphasizing the speaker’s lack of concern.

The use of the word “shit” in this phrase adds an extra layer of intensity, making it clear that the speaker truly does not care about the situation or person in question. However, it is important to note that the use of vulgar language may not be appropriate in all contexts, so it is important to gauge the appropriateness of this phrase depending on the situation.

It’s worth mentioning that the choice of which alternative phrase to use often depends on the individual’s personal preferences, the setting, and the level of formality required. Regardless of the specific wording, the intention remains the same – to express a complete lack of interest, concern, or care.

Controversy and Considerations

Deemed Offensive and Vulgar by Many

The phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” is a colloquial expression commonly used to convey a complete lack of interest or concern about a particular matter. However, it is important to note that this phrase is considered offensive and vulgar by many people.

The use of explicit language can be seen as disrespectful or inappropriate in certain social or professional contexts.

While some individuals may find this phrase amusing or casual, it is crucial to recognize that language carries different connotations for different people. The term “rat’s ass” itself may be considered crude, and the addition of “I don’t give a” intensifies the negativity associated with the phrase.

It is advisable to exercise caution and consider the audience before using such language.

Best Avoided in Professional Settings

Using the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s ass” in a professional setting is generally not recommended. In professional environments, maintaining a level of professionalism and respect is crucial for effective communication and maintaining good relationships with colleagues and clients.

Employers often have policies in place that prohibit the use of offensive language, and disregarding these policies can have negative consequences, including disciplinary action or damage to one’s professional reputation.

When expressing indifference or disinterest in a professional setting, it is better to use more neutral and polite language. Phrases such as “I’m not particularly invested in that,” “It’s not a priority for me,” or “I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter” can effectively convey one’s lack of interest without resorting to offensive language.

Other Ways to Express Indifference

If you find yourself wanting to express indifference or disinterest without using offensive language, there are plenty of alternative phrases to consider. Here are a few examples:

  • “I couldn’t care less.”
  • “It doesn’t matter to me.”
  • “I’m not bothered.”
  • “I have no strong feelings about it.”

By choosing more appropriate and respectful language, you can effectively convey your lack of interest or concern without causing offense or discomfort. Remember, communication is about finding common ground and understanding, so it’s important to use language that fosters positive interactions.


In summary, the saying “I don’t give a rat’s ass” has a long history of expressing indifference in a very blunt and vulgar manner. While it originated as a more polite substitute for other rude phrases, it is still considered offensive language today.

Understanding the background of this crude saying can help explain its continued use in informal settings. However, there are less controversial ways to communicate disinterest that are better suited for most public situations.