Shrimp: A Different Take On An Old Word


Let’s look at the term ‘shrimp’ for a long time. From where does this come? How will they put it? What is that? For most of us, the term shrimp is synonymous with cocktail shrimp or scampi shrimp, and now with the glorified television fishing shows, perhaps even commercial shrimps. It is a term commonly used for cooking and recipes-a food which now feeds millions of people around the world thanks to modern farming technologies. Internet searches show considerably more interest in the term when it comes to recipes and cooking than anything else.

As a term shrimp has meant many different things throughout history. This may identify an species in marine and aquaculture settings, but in many European regions and other places outside the United States it is referred to as prawns. Shrimp can also define the size or significance of someone or something, such as a disparaging reference to someone’s size as “small.” Another example would be how the word is used to represent an event, such as; “to shrimp,” as in the sense of “to fish.” As a verb, the term shrimping is used to describe the act of catching shrimp, which is performed using nets from boats or while wading. There’s even another meaning to my dismay for the term shrimping used in the adult pornography industry, but I’ll be steering away from that one. I will examine the different definitions of the word shrimp in this article, some context to explain where it came from and some examples of how shrimp was used in popular culture.


The term shrimp emerged somewhere between the 11th and 15th centuries from England. Originating from the word shrimpe, that meant pygmy. Dating back as far as the 14th century, Marco Polo spoke of shrimp as a primary food source in China. Shrimp fossils were found as an animal in areas once known as Gondwana, a supercontinent that consisted of Antarctica, Australia, South America, and Madagascar, which existed 300 million years ago. For millions of years the shrimp has always been a major source of food for birds , fish and whales, and more recently for humans. In the 1970s, shrimp consumption picked up dramatically with the help of shrimp farming designed to help sustain both wild stock and worldwide food supplies to help fight global hunger. Although some would argue that supply and demand were the real reason for shrimp farming in the U.S., the fact remains that it has helped alleviate the effects of famine in some parts of the world. Shrimp as food has, for at least the last 30 years, had a significant influence on global economies.

Shut down! You ‘re a creeper!

How many times you’ve heard this? I remember calling my younger siblings shrimps as the youngest of three Mom-terrorizing brothers as they were significantly smaller than me. Nonetheless, by the time I entered my early 20’s, they somehow outstripped my physical size during their high school years and soon afterwards the calling name suddenly ceased. I still felt fortunate that our young people didn’t reciprocate those early feelings.

Tracing the word shrimp back as a means of teasing others, I have found few sources as to when this really originated. It shocked me because of how much it was used in my youth, and is still being used today, although sparingly. However, there are a few good sources which help to shed some light on the subject. One of which has to do with modern-day bullying. According to Kids Against Bullying at the Pacer Center, strategies for kids to combat bullying should include responses to “You ‘re a shrimp!” and “You ‘re always a shrimp!” with laughter or sincerity to send the bully somewhere else to go, effectively stopping the bully in his or her tracks. I’m not sure how well it works, but it would be worth spending some quality time on the subject with my own kids just in case.