Why Is Gonorrhea Called the Clap?

Reviewed on 3/25/2021

Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is sometimes called "the clap." The origin of this nickname is not known, but it can be traced to several words with various meanings, including the French word "clapier" (brothel), the old English word "clappan" (to beat or throb), and others.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is sometimes called "the clap." The origin of this nickname is not known, but it can be traced to several words with various meanings, including the French word "clapier" (brothel), the old English word "clappan" (to beat or throb), and others.

Gonorrhea, also sometimes called “the clap,” is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) (also called a sexually transmitted infection, or STI) that affects both men and women. 

There is no one definitive reason gonorrhea is called “the clap,” but there are several theories as to the origin of the phrase: 

  • It is a reference to the French word "clapier," which means brothel, a place where STDs such as gonorrhea can be transmitted.
  • It describes an early treatment for gonorrhea, which was clapping a heavy object on the man's penis to get pus/discharge to come out.
  • “Clappan” is an old English word that means to beat or throb, which can describe the pain caused by gonorrhea.
  • During the war, gonorrhea was seen commonly among American GIs, and doctors at the army camps used code for the infection as “having the collapse.” It is thought that the “collapse” eventually became shortened to the “clap.”

What Are Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Many people have no symptoms of gonorrhea, so it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis if you experience any symptoms. 

Symptoms of gonorrhea in men and women include: 

  • If the urethra is infected:
    • Pain or burning sensation when urinating 
  • If the rectum is infected:
  • If the throat or mouth is infected, there are usually no symptoms, but a sore throat may occur

Additional symptoms of gonorrhea in women include: 

Additional symptoms of gonorrhea in men include: 

  • Milky, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Pain and swelling in one testicle (less common)

What Causes Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria and it is spread from person to person during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Pregnant women infected with gonorrhea can pass the infection on to their babies during childbirth.

QUESTION

Condoms are the best protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See Answer

How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?

Gonorrhea is diagnosed with: 

  • A swab of the vagina or cervix (in women)
  • A swab of the mouth or rectum
  • A urine sample (in men)

What Is the Treatment for Gonorrhea?

Treatment for gonorrhea involves a one-time dose of an antibiotic called ceftriaxone injected into the muscle.

Sexual partners should also receive treatment for gonorrhea because re-infection is common, and patients should be retested for gonorrhea three months after treatment of the initial infection. Sex should be avoided until both the patient and partner have been treated.

What Are Complications of Gonorrhea?

If untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious complications, including:

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Reviewed on 3/25/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/gonorrhea-beyond-the-basics?search=Gonorrhea&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2#H13

https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea.htmb

https://www.std-gov.org/blog/gonorrhea-called-clap/