also bull shit, "eloquent and insincere rhetoric," 1914, American English slang; see bull (n.1) + shit (n.), probably because it smells. But bull in the sense of "trivial or false statements" (1914), which usually is associated with this, might be a continuation of Middle English bull "false talk, fraud" (see bull (n.3)).
Entries linking to bullshit
"male of a bovine animal," c. 1200, bule, from Old Norse boli "bull, male of the domestic bovine," perhaps also from an Old English *bula, both from Proto-Germanic *bullon- (source also of Middle Dutch bulle, Dutch bul, German Bulle), perhaps from a Germanic verbal stem meaning "to roar," which survives in some German dialects and perhaps in the first element of boulder (q.v.). The other possibility [Watkins] is that the Germanic word is from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."
An uncastrated male, reared for breeding, as opposed to a bullock or steer. Extended after 1610s to males of other large animals (elephant, alligator, whale, etc.). Stock market sense "one who seeks to cause a rise in the price of a stock" is from 1714 (compare bear (n.)). The meaning "policeman" is attested by 1859.
Bull-necked is from 1640s. Figurative phrase take the bull by the horns "boldly face or grapple with some danger or difficulty" is recorded by 1711 (Swift). To be a bull in a china shop, figurative of careless and inappropriately destructive use of force, is attested from 1812 and was the title of a popular humorous song in 1820s England.
Middle English shit "diarrhea," from Old English scitte "purging, diarrhea," from source of shit (v.). The general sense of "excrement" dates from 1580s (Old English had scytel, Middle English shitel for "dung, excrement;" the usual 14c. noun for natural discharges of the bodies of men or beasts seems to have been turd or filth). As an exclamation attested in print by 1920 but certainly older. Use for "obnoxious person" is by 1508; meaning "misfortune, trouble" is attested from 1937.
Shit-faced "drunk" is 1960s student slang; shit list is from 1942. Shit-hole is by 1937 as "rectum," by 1969 in reference to undesirable locations. Shitload (also shit-load) for "a great many" is by 1970. Shitticism is Robert Frost's word for scatological writing.
Up shit creek "in trouble" is by 1868 in a South Carolina context (compare the metaphoric salt river, of which it perhaps a coarse variant). Slang not give a shit "not care" is by 1922. Pessimistic expression same shit different day is attested by 1989. To get (one's) shit together "manage ones affairs" is by 1969. Emphatic shit out of luck is by 1942.
The expression when the shit hits the fan "alluding to a moment of crisis or its disastrous consequences" [OED] is attested by 1967.
The expression is related to, and may well derive from, an old joke. A man in a crowded bar needed to defecate but couldn't find a bathroom, so he went upstairs and used a hole in the floor. Returning, he found everyone had gone except the bartender, who was cowering behind the bar. When the man asked what had happened, the bartender replied, 'Where were you when the shit hit the fan?' [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words," 1989]
updated on July 27, 2022