People with narcissistic tendencies tend to be particularly likely to hurl an insult your way so that they can feel better about themselves. However, in other cases, insults come from people who just don’t like anyone different than they are (ingroup-outgroup bias) or just lack something better to say or do. People who know each other well might also engage in teasing which includes, for the most part, harmless but well-placed jibes. You might also be teased for your accent, the type of job you do, or your choice of smartphone (or lack thereof), but these aren’t typically on a scale with a personal insult.
Researchers who study insults of a more personal nature use the term “verbal derogation” to characterize the things people say that are intended to belittle someone else (the target). Norwegian researchers Mons Bendixen and Ute Gabriel (2013) were particularly interested in how the gender of the sender and the target would influence the way that individuals perceive these verbal slurs. They expected that these gendered insults would be perceived as particularly disturbing by the members of the respective sex, but that people of both sexes would find it equally offensive to be the target of an insult to their appearance.