What’s the difference between a bad rap and a bad wrap? One is a dishonour that results from a false or unfair accusation or charge, while the other is a sandwich filled with less than desirable ingredients.
Chances are, if you find yourself here learning about the difference, you were looking to confirm that the former is the way to go.
So why, exactly, do we speak of a bad rap when it comes to an unearned negative reputation? The word “rap” originated in the United States during the 18th century, meant to refer to a criticism or reprimand for some unbecoming behavior; the same word is still used to refer to one’s “rap sheet,” a list of offenses committed. While it’s impossible to be sure (as is so often the case with etymology), the word probably relates to the idea of “rapping” someone – that is, hitting them in order to punish bad behavior.
To put the two terms in context, think of it like this: if you went to a sandwich shop and enjoyed a great meal, only to complain unfairly to your friends about the bad wrap that you had for lunch, you’d be giving that shop a bad rap.