What is a thirst trap? Meaning of the term, is it used as a compliment or an insult - and celebrity examples

Merriam Webster describes a thirst trap as simply saying ‘look at me!’

There are so many terms out there now to describe things that happen on social media.

From cuffing season to quiet quitting, these phrases are quickly becoming mainstream in our vocabulary, but what about the term thirst trap? The phrase is often used to describe seductive photos posted by celebrities, influencers and even our friends on social media, but what exactly does it mean and is it a compliment or an insult? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a thirst trap?

A thirst trap is a flirty social media post that is designed to entice someone or grab their attention. According to Merriam Webster, a quick definition describes it as: “desperate for romantic attention or approval of one’s attractiveness”.

The phrase comes from the slang word thirsty, which has no reference to being in need of water. To be thirsty is to mean you are eager for attention, hence the thirst trap, where you share an enticing photo to draw someone in. Merriam Webster explains it simply saying “look at me!”

Kim Kardashian is known for often posting “thirst trap” pictures on Instagram (Photo: Getty Images for W Magazine)Kim Kardashian is known for often posting “thirst trap” pictures on Instagram (Photo: Getty Images for W Magazine)
Kim Kardashian is known for often posting “thirst trap” pictures on Instagram (Photo: Getty Images for W Magazine)

According to The Sun, the term began to circulate in 2010, after being associated with Kim Kardashian who would regularly post seductive snaps online to create a social media frenzy. In 2014 the star also reportedly “broke the internet” with her cover shoot for Paper Magazine. The term has since became mainstream, with the hashtag #ThirstTrapThursdays a regular on platforms such as Instagram.

Is it used as a compliment or an insult?

A thirst trap can be used as both a compliment or an insult, whilst some people like their photos being called a thirst trap, others may be offended if this was not the intention behind their picture.

Why do people post thirst traps?

Thirst traps are a way for people to share a seductive snap of themselves online, this can be either to entice attention, show off their sexuality, boost their confidence, or just because they really like that particular picture. However they can have negative consequences.

In an interview with Parade, Psychotherapist Tiffany Rowland explained: “The thirst is the need or craving for attraction and the trap is used to lure one in to provide the wanted attention. A thirst trap isn’t gender-specific, it’s more of a desire to be chosen or wanted by others.”

Rowland added: “Thirst traps can be challenging for the original poster because they can create a superficial image or ideal about themselves which they will be expected to live up to. If you’re not looking for attention or the opinions of others, then be mindful about participating in the game of thirst trap.”

Some people post them accidently, the Daily Star reported that Tom Brady had to look up the meaning after he posted a picture of himself shirtless to promote his clothing brand. He told “Let’s Go!” podcast co-host Jim Gray: “That’s, I think, millennial verbiage. I actually even had to look that up so I didn’t even quite know what that meant, but just thought it was a good picture with some underwear. Nothing more than that.”

What does it mean on TikTok?

A thirst trap has another meaning on TikTok, although users still post videos under the traditional meaning, it has also taken on another element with the phrase being used towards things people like, including food. One video under the hashtag depicts the process of baking waffles, along with the hashtag #thirsttrap, whilst another shows the process of making a pizza from scratch.

What are some examples of a thirst trap?

Celebrities are the kings and queens of the thirst trap, with the phrase even reportedly associated with selfies from Kim Kardashian . Here are some of the best celebrity examples on Instagram:

Kim Kardashian

The queen of the thirst trap, the phrase was reportedly associated with the reality star due to her seductive pictures which she shared on Instagram.


Lizzo keeps us supplied with regular thirst trap photos, she’s got it down from the poses to the killer outfits.

Jeff Goldblum

The actor recreated a shot from Jurassic Park as a “reward” for his fans who had registered to vote.