To swear (paribhàsa or sapati) is to utter rude or insulting speech, usually when angry. The Buddha described such speech as `rough, cutting, bitter and abusive towards others, provoking anger, and disturbing the mind' (A.V,265). The Tipiñaka offers plenty of evidence that swearing was as common at the time of the Buddha as it is today. Calling someone a donkey, an ox or a camel was considered an insult (Vin.IV,12). Likewise to call someone `Shorty!' or `Stretch!' was considered rude (Vin.IV,7). People cast aspersions on others by saying: `Your father and mother must be dead!' (Atumari matumari) or by calling them `the son of a childless mother!' (puttamataya putta), and to call a woman a whore (bandhakã) was an insult that could be taken very badly indeed (M.I,449; I,524; Vin.IV,24). Another expletive was `Deer shit!' (migalandika! Vin.III,68) A person's color or social status could be disparaged or doubted and the ancients had no compulsions about doing so. The various ascetics, priests and monks were very good at exchanging insults and `wounding each other with the weapon of the tongue' too (M.I,320).
Brahmins often referred to the Buddha's ordained disciples as `shaven menial ascetics' or `the scrapings of our kinsmen's foot' (bandhupadàpaccà, D.I,90). Once some brahmins who had become monks commented to the Buddha that their fellow brahmins `revile and abuse us. They do not hold back with their usual flood of insults' (D.III,80). The Tipiñaka only gives a few examples of a physical gesture that might accompany swearing and verbal abuse, e.g. snapping the fingers (D.II,96). Apparently shaking the head, sticking out the tongue and waggling it after being told something was a way of indicating contempt or disbelief (M.I,109)
Swearing and verbal abuse are a type of harsh speech (pharusàvàcà) and are contrary to Right Speech, one of the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path (D.I,4). The Buddha said that one practicing the Dhamma would `speak words that are blameless, pleasant, easy on the ear, agreeable, going to the heart, urbane, pleasing and liked by everybody'(D.I,4).