Why is Gonorrhea Called the Clap?

January 11, 2024

Why is Gonorrhea Called the Clap?

Gonorrhea is a widely known sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is often referred to as “The Clap”. Since 2600 BCE, this common STI has been called “The Clap” from medieval times. The nickname of Gonorrhea, “The Clap”, is believed to have been derived from the French or English language. Some people began to call Gonorrhea “The Clap” after it was first referred to in a collection of English poems, “The Mirrors of Magistrates (1587)”. 

There are several interesting theories about “Why Gonorrhea Is Called The Clap”, and we are going to uncover these theories in this blog post. We hope that all your confusion about Gonorrhea and The Clap term will get cleared after reading this blog post. Let us understand why Gonorrhea has such an unusual nickname.

Why Do They Call It “The Clap”?

The origin of the word “The Clap” was believed to be either derived from the French word “Clapier” or it must have been linked to the English word “Clappan”. However, there is no certain evidence that proves the actual theory from where the nickname is derived. 

Some people believe that The Clap and Gonorrhea have been rooted in the historical treatment for bacterial infections. In the late 16th century, doctors were using mercury as a common treatment for Syphilis, a common sexually transmitted infection back then. The patients infected with Syphilis would collaboratively clap their hands in unison to signal that they were all prepared to get the mercury treatment.

Gonorrhea, or “The Clap”, and Syphilis were often the STIs most doctors would get confused about due to their similar mode of transmission. Although there is no evidence, some believe that the term “The Clap” unintentionally came from the actions of patients to signal their readiness for the treatment. 

Now, we will go through some other popular theories that have been circulated throughout several hundred years about why Gonorrhea is called The Clap. 

French Theory - Brothel Bunny’s Nest

The first theory for the origin of the term “The Clap” is that it came from the French word “Clapier.”, which means brothel in French. “Les Clapiers” was a medieval-era brothel street in Paris, which can also be translated as “Rabbit’s Nest”. The French word refers to the small, cramped houses in which prostitutes served their customers.

At that time, Gonorrhea was actively transmitted among men and women, and hence, the name itself became popular as the disease. When someone was infected with Gonorrhea, they would often refer to the STI as “Clapier Bubo”. Bubo, in the French language, means an inflamed lymph node or infection in the groin area.

Old English Theory 

The old English word “Clappan” is also believed to be the term from which the word “The Clap” came into existence. In the old English language, Clappan means to throb or beat. This word most likely reflects the symptoms of Gonorrhea, including burning during urination, a throbbing pain in the genitals due to the infection, or abdominal pain. 

The Painful Clapping Treatment Theory

In 1857, Gonorrhea was found to be caused by the bacterium, and at that time, medical knowledge was very limited. Before then, one of the early treatments for Gonorrhea among males was just a bit more invasive. Men dealing with Gonorrhea would clap their hands on both sides of the penis to squeeze out the pus-like discharge from the urethra.

Sometimes, a hard surface or heavy objects would be used to slam the penis in between the objects. However, this form of painful treatment was causing more damage and less treatment to the patients. The strange, vivid treatment contributed to the term “The Clap”. 


As we have gone through several theories, you would have understood why Gonorrhea is called The Clap. By going through these theories, it is true that people back in the 16th century or before have been trying different ways to treat sexually transmitted infections like “The Clap”. Exploring the history of The Clap, it is clear that STIs should be taken seriously, and patients infected with sexually transmitted infections like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia must get prompt treatment. 

Gonorrhea, or The Clap, is a common STI that everyone should be aware of for early detection and treatment. To get more information on the diagnosis, Gonorrhea treatment, and prevention of The Clap, you can read our blog posts on “The Clap Symptoms”, “The Clap Treatment”, and “The Clap Prevention”.