What does thug mean?

We understand that thug is a loaded word, but we wanted everybody to be a badass, to have that aggression. The climate around the word ‘thug’ is different now while society is almost overloaded with a toxic positivity. In that sense we basically want to ruffle some feathers.....

The first records of the word thug come from the early 1800s. It comes from the Hindi word thag, meaning “rogue,” “thief,” or “cheat.” This derives from the Sanskrit sthaga, which means “scoundrel” and comes from the verb sthagati, “to conceal.”


The word thug has had racial and cultural overtones since its adoption into the English language. It entered English during the British colonial period to describe a particular gang of criminals in India, but from the beginning, the otherness of the Indian robbers was intrinsic to the narrative about British colonial victims. In American English, the word is disproportionately applied to nonwhite perpetrators of violence or crime. 

White teens disturbing the peace at a party with loud music are more likely to be called troublemakers or hooligans. Their Black peers are more likely to be labeled thugs for the same offense. And following this common radicalized usage, thug is used by some and interpreted by many as a code word for Black. 

In extreme cases, thug is chosen as a dog whistle to imply that Black people are generally prone to violence or criminality.
However, there is also a reclaimed sense of thug within the Black community, and particularly in the hip-hop community, one that acknowledges the violence implicit in the label while also celebrating toughness and street smarts.

Because thug has many implied connotations that may change depending on who is using the word and who is being described by it, it’s important to critically consider the context and tone around each particular instance of its use to truly understand what is being communicated.