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The OED has not yet held a Word Induction Ceremony for derp, nor has that word risen above the noise floor in the Google Books ngram viewer. But the current Google News index estimates 36,200 results for derp, and only a few of them are references to the California Independent System Operators' Distributed Energy Resource Provider (DERP) initiative.

Paul Krugman has been inventing derived forms and proposing glosses for several years in the NYT ("Moral Derpitude", 6/4/2013; "Fighting the Derp", 6/8/2015; "I Do Not Think That Derp Means What You Think It Means", 6/8/2015; "Urp Versus Derp", 7/8/2015). And Lucy Ferriss commented on Krugman in the Chronicle of Higher Education ("Derp and 'tude", 6/26/2015), pointing out Krugman's debt to South Park, where Mr. Derp had his debut in 1999, in "The Succubus":

(In fact, it seems that the earliest citation is from the 1998 movie BASEketball, in which Trey Parker & Matt Stone starred.)

It'll be interesting to see whether Krugman's gloss ("Derp […] means being proved wrong but continuing to loudly assert the same thing again and again regardless"), [apparently originating with Noah Smith's "the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors"], wins out over the less intellectual version implicit in the BASEketball and South Park usage, which Wiktionary glosses as an interjection that "Draws attention to an act of foolishness or stupidity", or as a verb meaning "To act stupidly or foolishly"; "To make a stupid mistake".



  1. David C said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 7:41 am

    Professor Krugman actually lifted his definition of "derp" from fellow-economist Noah Smith. See

    [(myl) Thanks — I'd forgotten about that one — now added to the main post.]

  2. Richard Holden said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 7:51 am

    Not in the OED yet, but is in Oxford Dictionaries Online:

    "Used as a substitute for speech regarded as meaningless or stupid, or to comment on a foolish or stupid action"

  3. KeithB said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 8:43 am

    Charlie Pierce uses it a lot, too.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 8:47 am

    One of my students affectionately referred to me as a "derp", comparing me to a corgi, which she said is the epitome of derpiness.

  5. mike said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 9:44 am

    I couldn't figure out at first why there seemed to be so many (comparatively speaking) hits for "derp" before, like, 1880–what could the word possibly have meant in the 19th century? But a look at the actual sources disappointed my hopes for an earlier meaning. Oh. "Deep." Thanks, OCR.

    [(myl) Yes, as I've observed for years, the OCR community has an inexplicable aversion to language models. ]

  6. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 12:15 pm

    We covered derp (back to "BASEketball" in 1998) in the Winter 2011 installment of "Among the New Words" (, devoted to Internet memes. When Oxford Dictionaries added the word a couple of years ago, Hugo V.K. shared a nice Usenet antedating, bringing it back to 1997.

  7. Daniel Barkalow said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

    The economists seem out to lunch on this one. In my experience, "derp" is generally predicated of one's own actions after one recognizes an error. Even when predicated of someone else's actions, it implies that the actor would recognize the action as a mistake. And it generally suggests an error due to inattention. As far as I can tell, Josh Barro used it correctly to talk about statements Erick Erickson made that he himself would agree were inaccurate (such as getting Barro's first name wrong), but could be corrected to statements that he would still promote (e.g., Barro supported taxation to support health insurance, even though he didn't like the particular policies in the ACA).

    By Krugman's definition, Barro would be saying Erickson has such strong priors that he's still sure Barro is named John, despite Barro (and his byline) and Erickson's fellow conservatives correcting him. Barro is actually saying that Erickson doesn't bother to check, which is an entirely different problem (and much more realistic).

  8. rubrick said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 2:40 pm

    You're all way off. "Derp" (then spelled "durp") was around during the Middle Ages, as carefully documented by Kate Beaton.

  9. Ray said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 5:21 pm

    to me, derp sounds exactly like what you'd say if you tried to say d'oh and erp at the same time. both mean you (or someone) has made a foolish mistake, but derp implies you just now realized it — a sort of 'coulda hadda v8' moment, applied to oneself or another. (also, the timing of the simpsons seems to align with cited source dates)

  10. Melissa P said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 9:40 pm

    I graduated high school in June 1998, before Baseketball was released, but I distinctly remember derp being used in my high school to make fun of special ed students. :-( Bullies would say it when certain kids walked into class or tried to talk to someone. The /r/ was mostly subsumed by an often-stretched-out low-mid front vowel like daaaaaaaaeeeeeep, but it was spelled derp or derrrrrrrp. (Kids in my school were mostly rhotic btw. The pronunciation sounded like it was mocking the speech of a disabled person.)

    When I see derp used on Tumblr on an action shot of a goofy dog with tongue and tennis ball hanging out of his flapping jowls, to me it feels almost as insensitive (to people) as if the post said "this dog is retarded." (I love those photos, but derp feels like a word I don't want to say.)

    I wasn't familiar with the political-blog sense referring to a person who doesn't assimilate new facts into their beliefs. To those people, does derp feel like just a generic intelligence-attacking insult like duh or dumbass?

  11. Jayarava said,

    July 17, 2015 @ 3:53 am

    Derp = religion

  12. blahedo said,

    July 17, 2015 @ 1:17 pm

    I've used the word for years—picked it up in high school, so early 90s, though in a very slangy register—and would have defined it as something like, "dumb statement or action about which the utterer/performer really ought to have (and perhaps did) know better". Although its prime use was interjective and often used of oneself apologetically: "Oh derp, what was I thinking? Sorry." Or: "Derp derp derp, I'll stop talking now.", in a context where "open mouth, insert foot" would be appropriate. I guess this is more or less consistent with the Wiktionary definition.

    I've heard people described as "derpy" and at the time felt that I knew *exactly* what the describer was saying, although in that context my best gloss might be something like "eh, kind of a schmuck", which is itself not particularly precise.

  13. ThomasH said,

    July 17, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

    I had only heard the Krugman-Smith sense. I read them and do not watch South Park

  14. January First-of-May said,

    July 17, 2015 @ 6:24 pm

    A search of Google Ngrams finds a hit (about the only reasonably real hit in the linked searches, to be honest – most are proper names and/or OCR errors) in The Bible 2.0 by Nathan Smithe, published 1969.

    …Just kidding (and it's a good thing I realized that before posting). It's attributed to 1969 – on Google Books, and apparently a few other sources – but the frequent references to modern websites make such a dating somewhat unlikely. (I actually noticed that the style doesn't look like 1969 before noticing the references, but I saw enough sources for that date to almost accept it…)
    Nathan Smith himself seems to claim (on his site) that it's from 2009, which is far more likely.
    I feel sad for the poor theoretical researcher who could've noticed this book without cross-checking the date properly. Another peril of corpus-based research?

  15. Amy said,

    July 17, 2015 @ 11:51 pm

    DERP as an acronym has also surfaced in the context of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems:

  16. keri said,

    July 18, 2015 @ 10:34 am

    Somewhere along the way, over the past few years, I picked up on the idea that "derp" is offensive, sort of like "retard" or "spaz". (And, in fact, I slot those three words into the same box, as being related.) None of the citations here nor the comments reference this, so I wonder how I came to that conclusion, especially since I don't believe anyone specifically told me so, and I've only seen it on the internet, never heard it spoken.

  17. Jim said,

    July 20, 2015 @ 8:07 pm

    Isn't "derp" just the current spelling of "duh"?

    In the 70s and early 80s, schoolyard discourse often include "No duh", meaning something akin "That's obvious, don't be an idiot". During the 80s, this verbally migrated into "No der". In both cases, a drawn out "Duuuhhhh" or "Derrrrr" was meant to be the sound an idiot would make, trying to think.

    "Derp" is nothing but "Derrrr" with a sudden cut-off of the trailing sound.

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