Bad Rap vs. Bad Rep

Is there a difference? Apparently slightly so!

According to Merriam-Webster, in this context:

rap is "a negative and often undeserved reputation or charge —often used with bum or bad"

rep is slang for "reputation; especially : status in a group (as a gang)"

So, from these definitions and other things I've read:
- If someone has a "bad rap", it's typically because that person is getting blamed for or associated with negativity for something that person may not have done.
- If someone has a "bad rep", others also think poorly of that person, but likely for something that person did, or for a track record of sketchy behavior.

Of course, in this day and age, the meaning of phrases can change with how the populace uses them - so don't be surprised if some find these interchangeable!


  1. One question - was the "populous" above meant to be "populace"?

  2. I really needed to know this difference.
    Thank you very much for sharing this info :)

  3. Think of "RAP" sheet--a criminal's record. RAP = Record of Arrests and Prosecutions.

  4. Actually "bad rep" is very rarely used and means the same thing as "bad rap". "Bad rep" is usually taken as a misspelling of "bad rap."

    1. On the contrary, "bad rep" has been used for centuries (see Merriam Webster) & when my son said "bad rap" I assumed he was wrong. It's new usage; the former is a deserved poor reputation, and now I know the latter is one that's undeserved.

    2. Thank you rowemag--finally I find someone who knows the truth about the grammar. A rap is a light hit. A rep is short for reputation, which is what it's all about. Bad 'wrap' is just plain stupidity, like wrongly using the words 'there' and 'they're' and 'their' interchangeably. It makes me think that the user of the wrong word is a non self-thinker, who is just a follower and not a leader.

    3. "Ignorance"* not "stupidity". We shouldn't go around calling people stupid due to their ignorance! ;)