Where does puke come from?
Puke as a verb is found in the 1580s, with the noun following not long after in the 1610s. Its etymology isn't exactly clear, but it seems to be distantly related to another one of our many throw-up words, spew.
Shakespeare—ever the vomiter of words—notably used puke in his 1599 play As You Like It in one of the immortal passages of all the English language:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Since then, the word puke really left its mark on the English language, used far and wide as a colorful way to talk about vomiting and vomit.
Puke has inspired many slang terms, especially for something or someone "obnoxious" or "contemptible" (e.g., you little puke or pukeface).
It especially figures in expressions that characterize how disgusting or repugnant somebody finds something. Holden Caulfield, for instance, memorably deployed it for his feelings about the word grand: "It's phony. I could puke every time I hear it."
The lowly word puke, though, isn't just a favorite of high literature. The beloved character Chunk spills his guts about a puke prank in the 1985 cult classic, The Goonies:
Other common occurrences of puke are in the phrases it makes me wanna puke (it's so gross I could vomit), puke (a little bit) in my mouth (a more expressive reaction to something nasty), puke green or yellow (color), and puke and rally (frat-partying binge-drinker staple).
Any parent can tell you all about baby puke—and any cat owner, cat puke, as well.
Who uses puke?
The word puke has really gotten all over the place. It's a noun, a verb, even an adjective, pukey.
ugh i was sent home from work sick and also i've been feeling pukey all day but also not actually puking just dry heaves
— a random lesbab @BLFC (@magicalfeyfenny) May 7, 2018
(We hope you're feeling better, @magicalfeyfenny.)
Puke can refer to literal vomiting, but it just as often describes how something makes us feel.
I just heard the term “girl boss” for the first time and puked in my mouth a little bit
— tanya tagaq (@tagaq) April 18, 2018
While puke isn't considered offensive, it may be considered impolite when people are eating. Vomit tends to be its more formal counterpart. If you're classy like that.
If a boy called me princess I’d puke in my mouth
@21alexandraaaa, May, 2018
Puke is pretty yucky. Luckily, most kids don't puke very often. And when you do, remember that you'll probably feel better very soon.
KidsHealth, September, 2017
puking in an Uber: $150 charge for damages, lowers your rating, not good puking on the metro: $0 charge, no rating, adds to the layer of puke already there
@Julian_Epp, March, 2018