Why is it called FROGGING anyway?

A few weeks back we looked into the word railroading and found out where the name originally came from, and on our social media platforms, people started talking about other weird cross stitch words. One of these was frogging or simply ‘to frog’. However, a small argument started about where the term came from, and why it was called that. Turns out, no one knows for sure, however, there are three main theories.


For those that don’t know, frogging is the bain of all cross stitchers. Simply put, if you’ve made a mistake and can’t fix it, then you have to rip it out. It’s bound to have happened to every stitcher at some point, but not that many people know its called frogging.

Frogging is also a term used in knitting for the same issue! (source: google images)

Why is it called FROGGING anyway?

When it comes to the term frogging, there are a few possible options on its etymology. Whilst no one knows for sure, we can narrow some of the options down a little.

Possibility 1 – “Rip it, Rip it”

A fun and quirky way of learning the term frogging is the phrase “rip it, rip it”, which kinda sounds like a frog. Kinda.
I think whilst this is a great way of learning the name, the closeness of ‘rip it’ to ‘ribbit’ is just a bit too far from the truth.

Possibility 2 – The swear word

We’ve all heard of the story on how the word f*ck came about but in many circles, it’s just not an acceptable term. But getting cross stitch wrong sucks. Simply put this story works on the idea that someone would exclaim “FROG!” instead of its well known offensive cousin.
However, that doesn’t really add up either. You see, the first known use of the term ‘frog’ (used for embroidery, not specifically cross stitch) was in 1500. The swear word was invented in 1475. The likelihood that the swear word became so well known and then surpassed in 25 years is just crazy unlikely. So that leaves just one other theory.

Possibility 3 – The English don’t like the French

Turns out, ‘frog’ isn’t just the creature, it means something else too.

[frog, frawg]

  1. (often initial capital letter) Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.
  2. A contemptuous term used to refer to a French person or a person of French descent.

There is one thing that every Englishman knows, and it’s our history with the French. We’ve been friends, enemies, and everything in between. As a result, French words, and words pertaining to the French have made their way into the English language.
So it could be that people are simply saying that ‘to frog’ is extremely disparaging.
And why is this the most likely answer? Well, two things. Firstly the term ‘frog’ to talk about a Frenchman would have been on everyone’s lips. Not because we were at war with France, but because France had just stopped being at war with us, and suddenly we were friends. In an effort to use a common language, it’s likely they reused the term ‘frog’ to no longer mean a Frenchman, and as a result, used its original meaning, disparaging. Whilst this did change some 200 years later, by then it was likely in the common vocabulary for stitchers. Interesting at this time most stitchers and embroiderers were men, specifically those in the military, who would have fought then fought alongside the French.
The second reason? There simply isn’t a better alternative. No one really knows the origin of the term, but for now, the best we can work out is its simply an obscure use of the word ‘frog’ which is no longer remembered.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Marina Michaels

    “You see, the first known use of the term ‘frog’ (used for embroidery, not specifically cross stitch) was in 1500. The swear word was invented in 1475. The likelihood that the swear word became so well known and then surpassed in 5 years is just crazy unlikely.”

    Or even in 25 years.

  2. Elaine Cochrane

    Do you have a reference/source for ‘frog’ in 1500? I’d love to be able to quote it. I do a fair bit of unstitching, tinking and frogging.

  3. Shawna Zimmerman Gregg

    Wow, I hadn’t heard a few of those theories before. For me, I like to do a color in the are within my hoop (I use a scroll now, but you get the idea). By the time I discover a mistake has been made I’ve usually stitched several other colors in the same area, and I always took frogging to illustrate how I often have to “hop” around the other colors when ripping stuff up.