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What is a Bad Egg?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

When someone is referred to as a bad egg, it means that he or she has turned out to be bad, despite early signs of being a decent person. Terms like “bad apple” and “bad seed” are also used in the same way. The term often comes with an implication that the individual in question does not have a chance at redemption; like a rotten egg, he or she is simply bad to the core.

People have been referring to each other as “eggs” since the 1600s, and the origins of the use of “egg” in slang are a bit unclear. It may be a reference to the classical egg-shape of the human head. The sense of a “bad egg” emerged in the mid-1800s, first appearing in a newspaper opinion column about a corrupt mayor. The column pointed out that he had numerous links to the underworld, despite seeming like an ordinary fellow, and righteous citizens should not vote for him in the upcoming election.

A dozen good eggs.
A dozen good eggs.

Just like a literal bad egg, a human one typically has a perfectly ordinary surface which does not provide any hints as to what's inside. When eggs go bad, their shells typically remain intact for some time, and the truth of the matter is only revealed when the shell is cracked open to reveal the spoiled interior of the egg. In the case of a human bad egg, people may not realize that he or she is bad until matters have come to a head.

The term is also linked with a certain amount of dishonesty. A bad egg obviously would need to lie to conceal his or her bad identity, preserving an innocent and wholesome appearance. When the person is exposed, many people wonder when he or she was telling the truth, and when lies were told. This dishonesty can also be disheartening for people for supported him or her in some way, as they typically feel betrayed and used.

Some people talk about “bad eggs” in the sense of people who are obviously bad, or people who might be a bad influence. For example, a parent might tell a child not to associate with so-and-so, because he or she is a “bad egg.” In this case, the truth about the bad egg's nature is out, but he or she could still be a harmful influence on people who are impressionable, such as children.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


At first I was surprised to hear my friends talk about hating school, but when I heard some of their reasons why, I understood. Some people have told me that their teachers, even elementary teachers, said they would never amount to anything and called them a “bad egg”, a “bad” apple, or just plain “bad.”

These educators should not be educators, for this is oppressing people, not helping them in anyway. I know sometimes people who are talked poorly about still end up doing well in the end, because they figured out that they weren’t the negative things that people called them. But some people do not ever fully recover from this emotional abuse and some do not ever realize that whoever called them anything negative was in the wrong.

Some people are said to be motivated by this negativity, but I am sure they would have been more motivated and had less emotional scars if the people around them said encouraging, uplifting true,things instead of discouraging, depressing, false statements. I feel like I am a pretty happy person, and I think that has somewhat to do with growing up with more positive words than negative words. It is crazy that a person may not remember exactly what a person said to them, but will remember how each person made them feel. I think I was less inclined to act mean then and now because I have loving, positive people in my life both when I was younger and now.


@alisha - I totally agree with you! I don’t believe that anyone is born “bad” or that anyone has no chance to change if their behavior and actions are bad. Calling someone any hurtful name is just uncalled for, and I am surprised at how many adults use this “bad egg” term in front of children and adults too. I have had many friends that were called or perceived to be “bad eggs”, but once they got older and more mature they changed at least some of their ways, if not all of them.

I believe in God, therefore I do not believe anyone is created “bad” or “evil”. I also see that through God, and other positive influences, many people can and do change their behavior for the better/best. I actually worked at a daycare where we tried very much to not ever call a child “bad”, rather say that what they were saying or doing was “bad” or hurtful or wrong, but that they were still good people and we still loved them.

If we reported on their bad behavior to their parents and/or them, we also tried to report their good behavior too, so we tried to show them and their parent’s that they did good deeds also, and that we appreciated them and their positive actions. I think it is important to keep “bad” out of everyone's vocabulary, unless you are talking about particular incidents, not people in general.


This article reminds me of an activity we used to do in elementary school. Somehow it stuck with me all these years.

The teacher would draw four identical eggs on the blackboard. Each one would have a smiley face, hands, and legs so that we would relate them with humans.

She would then describe to us what each egg did. It would go something like, “Egg A helped an old lady put her groceries in the car. Egg B pushed his brother into a mud puddle. Egg C made a good grade on his test. Egg D does his homework every day. Which egg is the bad egg?”

Then, the entire class in unison would yell out, “Egg B!” It was a super easy activity, and instead of judging our mental ability, I think it was for conditioning our perspective of good and bad behavior.


@alisha - I do think it’s generally harmful for children to hear that there is nothing they can do to alter their behavior because they were born bad. However, in some rare instances, hearing this can motivate them to change.

My well-meaning grandparents told my brother he was a bad egg, because he was always doing just the opposite of what he was told. They actually said to him that he was rotten all the way through, and he wouldn’t amount to anything in life.

Hearing that made him angry, and it fueled his determination to be something. He started trying hard in school, and his grades went up. He even volunteered for charities and did a lot of good works to prove them wrong.

This determination persisted throughout his life, and he excelled in college. He eventually became a successful CEO, and my grandparents had to admit they were wrong.


When I turned sixteen and my parents allowed me to date, they referred to my new boyfriend as a “bad egg.” He was a bit of a bad boy, but like any girl next door would, I wanted to transform him into a lovesick prince.

He talked back to teachers and got detention a lot. He sprayed graffiti on public walls and got community service. He stayed in trouble so much that he had no time left to spend with me.

I could see that my good influence was moot. I decided to disappear from his life, and he just kind of forgot about me. It’s a good thing I did, because when he was eighteen, his bad behavior progressed to rape and kidnapping.


An old rivalry between my family and another family in town made my dad refer to all of them as “bad eggs.” They were wealthy and nice-looking, but he said their hearts were evil.

He once told me that they were like beautiful Easter eggs that had been hidden for over a year in the back of a closet. They still looked wonderful, but their stench permeated the whole house, and you had to get rid of them for the smell to go away.

I thought this was funny, and I also thought he was basing his opinion only on the history between his family and theirs. I didn’t find out until I was older that one of them had been having an affair with his first wife.


@Alisha - That is great that your nephew turned his life around, but in my experience most people like that don’t change unless they are willing to change. There are bad eggs in my family too, and the problem with them is that they don’t see the error in their ways.

They always think that everything that happens to them is caused by everyone else so they never take responsibility for their actions and as a result always stay in the same rut. I also think that people that are bad eggs are jealous of the success of others and sometimes try to sabotage it.

This always reminds me of the famous lines in the song. “Ain't No Stoppin’ Us Now” in which they sing, “If you have a person that has a negative vibe, and when you try to make it they only push you aside. They really don’t have nowhere to go. Ask them where they are going, they don’t know.” This proves that bad eggs are negative people that we have to ignore in order to reach certain happiness in our lives. They have no direction in their lives and can zap the energy that you have right out of you.


My teacher said that a bad egg is someone whom we should not trust because he or she is very dishonest and might be lying.

I wish we could know who the bad eggs are when we first meet them. If bad eggs don't mind lying, then they can easily trick us into thinking that they are good. But we won't find out their true personality until we get to know them a little bit.

I had a friend who was a bad egg. She acted nice to me but spread false rumors about me behind my back. I really cared for this friend so it hurt me a lot when I learned about what she was doing. I wish I had know that she was a bad egg before all this happened.


I don't like this phrase because it sounds as if bad eggs can never be reformed. But I don't agree at all.

My nephew was always called a bad egg as he was a troublemaker since he was very young. But as he got older and more mature, he realized that he was in the wrong and started to change.

He has even joined a community college now and is getting an education. I'm very proud of him and I think that calling people 'bad eggs' is not good for them psychologically. Even if someone is doing bad things, it doesn't mean that they are bad people. We need to convince them that they are in fact good people and that's why they should do good things. I think the term 'bad egg' actually harms that person more. It convinces them that they are bad and that they will stay that way.


In my family, the elders will generally talk about the 'bad eggs' in the family, meaning people who didn't turn out like the rest of the family.

Our family is a pretty old and rooted one where we live. Everyone knows us here and we are known as good, hard-working and honest people. But there have been several people, like my brother, aunt and cousin who within the family are know as 'bad eggs'. Unlike the rest of us, they are not very honest and are very lazy, jealous and selfish.

I think the bad egg metaphor is a good one because, like the article said, from the outside, the 'bad eggs' look just like the rest of our family members. But they have turned out to have different and negative characteristics from the rest of us. My grandfather says that in every family, every generation has at least one 'bad egg'.

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    • A dozen good eggs.
      By: CrackerClips
      A dozen good eggs.