‘That Sucks’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on January 6, 2023

What does it mean when someone says ‘that sucks’? In this article, we’ll look at the definition, origin, and example sentences of this common slang phrase.

In short, ‘that sucks’ can be used to express sympathy when something unfortunate happens or to describe something as disappointing, inferior, of poor quality, or worthless.

What Does 'That Sucks' Mean?

‘That sucks’ is a slang phrase used to refer to something that is worthless, poor, or inferior or to describe something as unfortunate. It can also be used as an informal way to express sympathy.

Before you start adding this to your vocabulary, though, it’s worth understanding that this is considered a rude phrase. While it might be appropriate in many informal contexts, it’s not a phrase you would want to use in a business email or a formal meeting.

For instance, let’s say that you were excited about going to a concert, but you just found out it was canceled. You might say ‘that sucks’ as a way to express your disappointment.

Another example would be if your friend told you that they’re going to stay home on Friday night because they have a cold. You could say ‘that sucks’ to express your sympathy and disappointment that they won’t be able to join you.

This is one of those phrases where the tone used and the context it’s used in can really change the meaning. The same phrase can come off as sympathetic, casual, mocking, or rude, depending on how it is said.

It’s also worth noting that ‘that sucks’ also has a literal meaning. The word ‘suck’ can mean to pull something else in a particular direction with great force. If someone looks at a vacuum cleaner and says, ‘that sucks,’ it’s possible that they are simply referring to the way the vacuum operates or that they’re claiming it’s an inferior machine.

Where Does 'That Sucks' Come From?

The slang sense of the word ‘sucks’ was first attested in 1971. This is related to the euphemistic meaning of ‘sucks’ about the act of fellatio that dates back to 1928.

These days, when someone says that something ‘sucks,’ they typically mean that the thing they’re describing is contemptible.

There is another possible origin of ‘that sucks’ that doesn’t relate to fellatio or sexual acts. As related to the word ‘sucker,’ which refers to a person that is easily duped, the word ‘sucks’ might have once meant that a person was easily deceived or naive.

Though ‘that sucks’ is considered rude among certain company, it isn’t really a swear word in American English either. It’s common for parents not to allow their young children to say the word ‘sucks’ and for it to be discouraged in schools. You probably don’t want to say it to your boss unless you have a fairly informal relationship, either.

Examples of 'That Sucks' In Sentences

How would you use ‘that sucks’ in a sentence? Here are some examples.

  • That sucks that the tomato is moldy. I guess I’ll have to go to the grocery store before we can make dinner.”
  • “I was so excited to hear he got us tickets to the game until I learned they were in the nosebleed seats. I’m not trying to be ungrateful, but that sucks!”
  • That sucks that your new dress won’t arrive until later than you expected, but it hardly qualifies as a crisis.”
  • Mrs. Smith says we can’t go outside today during lunch. That sucks.”
  • That really does suck that you weren’t offered the position. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the job market is really rough out there right now.”
  • “I know it’s hard to understand right now, but remember, and this too shall pass. That sucks that you didn’t get into your dream school, but it isn’t the end of the world– one of these other options will still offer you a great education!”

Other Ways to Say 'That Sucks'

There are a number of other ways you can convey a similar meaning as the one implied by ‘that sucks.’ Here are some other options:

  • That’s awful
  • That’s terrible
  • That’s unfortunate
  • That’s a bummer
  • That’s too bad
  • That blows
  • I’m sorry to hear that
  • What a bummer
  • That’s a shame
  • That’s a pity
  • I’m sorry that happened
  • That must be difficult for you
  • That’s brutal

Are you on a mission to learn as many new idioms as possible? Make sure you check out our idioms blog!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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