- an unjust accusation, verdict, or punishment: He was sent to prison on a bum rap.
- an adverse opinion or judgment considered undeserved or unjust: The review was a bum rap, but I liked the play.
- a trumped-up or false charge
- an unjust punishment
A false accusation or conviction; also, unfair criticism or action. For example, He claimed he was in prison on a bum rap, or The theater critics gave her last play a bum rap. This expression originated in the 1920s as underworld slang, and by the mid-1900s it was also used figuratively for other kinds of injustice.