An insult is an expression or statement (or sometimes behavior) which is disrespectful or scornful. Insults may be intentional or accidental. An insult may be factual, but at the same time pejorative, such as the word "inbred".
Lacan considered insults a primary form of social interaction, central to the imaginary order – "a situation that is symbolized in the 'Yah-boo, so are you' of the transitivist quarrel, the original form of aggressive communication".[clarification needed]
Erving Goffman points out that every "crack or remark set up the possibility of a counter-riposte, topper, or squelch, that is, a comeback". He cites the example of possible interchanges at a dance in a school gym:
- A one-liner: Boy: "Care to dance?" Girl: "No, I came here to play basketball" Boy: "Crumbles"
- A comeback: Boy: "Care to dance?" Girl: "No, I came here to play basketball" Boy: "Sorry, I should have guessed by the way you're dressed".
A backhanded (or left-handed) compliment, or asteism, is an insult that is disguised as, or accompanied by, a compliment, especially in situations where the belittling or condescension is intentional.
Examples of backhanded compliments include, but are not limited to:
Negging is a type of backhanded compliment used for emotional manipulation or as a seduction method. The term was coined and prescribed by pickup artists. Negging is often viewed as a straightforward insult rather than as a pick-up line, in spite of the fact that proponents of the technique traditionally stress it is not an insult.
A personal attack is an insult which is directed at some attribute of the person.
The Federal Communications Commission's personal attack rule defined a personal attack as one made upon the honesty, character, integrity, or like personal qualities in the Communications Act of 1934.
Personal attacks are generally considered a fallacy when used in arguments since they do not attempt to debunk the opposing sides argument, rather attacking the qualities of a person.
Verbal insults often take a phallic or pudendal form; this includes offensive profanity, and may also include insults to one's sexuality. There are also insults pertaining to the extent of one's sexual activity. For example, according to James Bloodworth, "incel" “has gradually crept into the vocabulary of every internet troll, sometimes being used against men who blame and harass women for not wanting to sleep with them.” 
Insults in poetic form is practiced through out history, more often as entertainment rather than maliciousness. Flyting is a contest consisting of the exchange of insults between two parties, often conducted in verse and became public entertainment in Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. Senna is a form of Old Norse Eddic poetry consisting of an exchange of insults between participants.
O du eselhafter Peierl (Oh, you asinine Peierl), composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was meant for fun, mocking, scatological humor directed at a friend of Mozart's.
More modern versions include poetry slam, dozens, diss song and battle rap.
Various typologies of insults have been proposed over the years. Ethologist Desmond Morris, noting that "almost any action can operate as an Insult Signal if it is performed out of its appropriate context – at the wrong time or in the wrong place", classes such signals in ten "basic categories":
Elizabethans took great interest in such analyses, distinguishing out, for example, the "fleering frump ... when we give a mock with a scornful countenance as in some smiling sort looking aside or by drawing the lip awry, or shrinking up the nose". Shakespeare humorously set up an insult-hierarchy of seven-fold "degrees. The first, the Retort Courteous; the second, the Quip Modest; the third, the Reply Churlish; the fourth, the Reproof Valiant; the fifth, the Countercheck Quarrelsome; the sixth, the Lie with Circumstance; the seventh, the Lie Direct".
What qualifies as an insult is also determined both by the individual social situation and by changing social mores. Thus on one hand the insulting "obscene invitations of a man to a strange girl can be the spicy endearments of a husband to his wife".