Aside from speculations of the title coming from Tarantino's mispronunciation of the French film name, what meaning does Reservoir Dogs have in context of the actual story line?

  • I heard a rumor that because a reservoir can be formed by a dam, and a female dog is called a "bitch", that the title is another way of saying "Damned Sons of Bitches". Like I said, just a rumor. But a compelling one! Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 16:51
  • @ShawnV.Wilson That’s very interesting and makes sense. If you have a reliable source or analysis, please consider writing that as an answer. Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 0:15
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    @galacticninja Thanks. I wish I did have anything more than vague rumor, but that's why I made a comment and not an answer. Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 4:24

4 Answers 4


According to Urban Dictionary:

A rat. Slang term for one who snitches to the police, or is an undercover police officer themselves. Origin comes from the great size of rats living in and around reservoirs.

Near the end of the movie, the survivors come to a dramatic conclusion, one of them is a snitch or a cop. The title is actually a very good title, a reservoir is something that holds stuff inside (no get out) and dogs (criminals) see the diamond as a bone.

This is just my point of view, Tarantino himself bragged how cool it is for people to come up with their own significations, I don't think there is one set in concrete.

I don't want to sound rude or anything, but OP clearly stated that he wanted another answer than the one IMDb states with Quentin's French words being messed up.

  • 6
    If you're quoting something, please reference the source. (Also, are you sure the slang term wasn't inspired by the movie rather than the other way around?)
    – Walt
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 15:14
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    You might be right, added source. Not the most reliable source but still people have spoken, 2/3 thought it was a legit slang. It could be the other way around, but as a french speaker, reservoirs are indeed packed with rats so it would make sense to link this to snitches.
    – Alexandre
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 15:16
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    I don't think you can cite Urban Dictionary as a reliable source of anything. Commented May 4, 2016 at 9:59

From IMDb:

What does the title mean?

Tarantino doesn't typically answer this question directly, saying that he likes it when people come up with their own definitions for the phrase. He has called it "more of a mood title than anything else." One popular and oft-told story about the origin of the title is that former video store employee Tarantino used to mangle the title of the French film Au revoir les enfants, and his mispronounciation gave birth to the phrase "Reservoir dogs." Lawrence Tierney (who plays Joe Cabot) reportedly told a German reporter that Reservoir dogs was "a very famous expression in America for dogs who hang around a reservoir.

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    As a french speaker, 'RE-ZERV-VOAR' is how it is pronounced, I'm still trying to figure out what part he was having trouble with lol. Even 'O-RE-VOAR' seems easy to pronounce. Both words only have the last part in common.
    – Alexandre
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 15:37
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    For what it's worth, I was in a supermarket a year or so ago and heard one of the locals say: "How about we buys you that video you wants? The Girl With the Purple Earring". So if a native English speaker can confuse "pearl" and "purple", It's not a surprise that they'd get mixed up when trying to remember French. :)
    – Dave M
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 15:39

The title “Reservoir Dogs” is more of a “mood title” than anything else, according to Quentin Tarantino.

He said this in a press conference at the Toronto World Film Festival in 1992.

The text of the press conference, September 16,1992, is printed here for the first time […]. In the press-conference discussion, […] Tarantino balked at explaining the meaning of the film's title, saying "...it's more of a mood title than anything else. It's just the right title, don't ask me why."

Source: Quentin Tarantino: Interviews Introduction. Gerald Peary

  • I realize that "mood title" was already mentioned in another answer. I added this answer to provide the proper context and source of the Tarantino quote, instead of just an IMDb link. Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 0:52

Refers to when animals, dogs and rats et cetera, fall into a reservoir and are incapable of escape. They must therefore eat each other to survive.

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    Hi, welcome to Movies & TV. Do you have any source for this? I've never heard of what you're describing; normally an open reservoir would not be so escape-proof.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 3:21

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