Don’t Call Rihanna – Or Anyone Else – Thick

Is it a compliment? Is it an insult? Why women are reacting to being called “thick” and whether or not you should use that word.

Rhianna called "thick," The star on the red carpetphoto credit: shutterstock

If someone called me “thick,” I would be insulted and confused. You’d think they’re either making fun of my body shape or saying I’m not too smart. But “thick” has a whole new meaning.

Body shaming has become such a (completely unacceptable) standard part of living life on the Internet that when we started seeing the word “thick” being thrown around with some of our favourite celebrities, I figured it was just another way of putting women down.

So we were shocked to learn that being called thick was, in fact, a compliment?

What does thick mean?

Based on our very unofficial research, it looks like the word has its roots in the word “phat” — a ’90s term for “pretty hot and tempting” or “excellent.”

Fast forward 20 years and “phat” has found a new iteration in “thick,” but essentially, they mean almost the same thing.

According to, “thick” means “nice a**, nice legs, not skinny, with meat on your bones, thickness is the sh**” — and BuzzFeed seems to agree. They posted not one, but two stories this week complimenting both Rihanna and Hilary Duff on their thickness. (Hilary is actually nicknamed Thickary Duff?!) Each one started with a disclaimer, letting readers know that calling someone thick is not an insult. It’s meant with the highest regard.

However, not everyone agrees that thick is a compliment, including Rihanna. The singer posted a meme on Instagram a few days after the BuzzFeed article was posted, with no caption, and just the single tear emoji. Of course, we’ll never know exactly what RiRi was thinking or how she feels, but if memes could talk, this one would probably say she’s not impressed.

Rhianna's instagram post making fun of those who called her "thick"photo credit:

And then there’s the situation that unfolded a few years ago, when Ri’s ex-bf Drake mentioned “thick girls” in one of his rap verses on Nicki Minaj’s—who’s often been described as a “thick girl” in her own right—single “Only.”

It happened to drop around the same time as “Thick Girl Appreciation Day,” which made it the perfect impetus for a worldwide conversation about the term “thick” and how people feel about it — thick girls included.

Don’t call just anyone “thick”

According to the Huffington Post, women’s feelings on the word are mixed.

Some agree that it’s a compliment saying things like, “When I hear the word ‘thick’ used to describe a woman’s body, I think strong. Powerful. Capable of amazing things,” and “I think of voluptuous curves. I think of a woman that has a round, sexy booty, some full figured, no gap in between thighs, a nice figure-8 shape, and fully blossomed breasts. She looks like she can get the attention of every man.”

On the other side of the spectrum were the women who had no tolerance for thick or a place for it in their vocabulary saying things like, “It’s meant as a compliment, but I’ve never cared for it,” or that it makes them feel awkward.

If thick is meant to celebrate bodies, then it’s certainly something we can get behind. But if it’s just another term to classify and sexualize, then we’ll let this one join “phat” in retirement. It’s kind of like asking if a woman’s pregnant – you better not make the mistake of saying it to the wrong woman.

Check out our other body image stories:

Why You Should Be Inspired By Ashley Graham’s Nude Photos

10 Body Image Questions With Beyoncé Dancer Akira Armstrong

Why Britney Is Inspiring Us To Be Healthier, Fitter And To Eat Better