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90s Slang You Should Know


[boi] /bɔɪ/
a male child, from birth to full growth, especially one less than 18 years of age.
a young man who lacks maturity, judgment, etc.
Informal. a grown man, especially when referred to familiarly:
He liked to play poker with the boys.
a son:
Sam's oldest boy is helping him in the business.
a male who is from or native to a given place.
boys, (used with a singular or plural verb)
  1. a range of sizes from 8 to 20 in garments made for boys.
  2. a garment in this size range.
  3. the department or section of a store where these garments are sold.
boys, military personnel, especially combat soldiers:
Support the boys overseas.
Disparaging and Offensive. a term used to refer to or address a man considered by the speaker to be inferior in ethnicity, nationality, or occupational status.
a young male servant; page.
Offensive. (in India, China, Japan, etc.) a native male servant, working as a butler, waiter, houseboy, etc.
Nautical. an apprentice seaman or fisherman.
interjection, Also, oh, boy
an exclamation of wonder, approval, etc., or of displeasure or contempt.
Origin of boy
1250-1300; Middle English boy(e), perhaps after Old English Bōia man's name; cognate with Frisian boi young man; akin to Old English bōfa, Old Norse bōfi, Old High German Buobo man's name (German Bube knave, (dial.) boy, lad)
Can be confused
boy, buoy.
Usage note
During the slavery and Jim Crow eras, white southerners would use the term boy to refer to or address a black adult male, implying that black people were inferior. In the meaning “native male servant,” boy was originally used in colonial territories and in the ports of China, Japan, etc., through which trade with foreign countries was permitted by special treaty. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for boy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The boy laid the poster on the table where she could read it again, word for word.

    The Coyote James Roberts
  • He was as interested in details of the life on the Project as a boy of fifteen.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • I read Astounding Stories all the time, although I'm just a boy.

  • But it proved to be only a boy, and he hailed them and then disappeared.

    A Prisoner of Morro Upton Sinclair
  • They were out to try a new experience, and one that appealed to every boy in the bunch.

    Pathfinder Alan Douglas
British Dictionary definitions for boy


a male child; lad; youth
a man regarded as immature or inexperienced: he's just a boy when it comes to dealing with women
See old boy
(informal) a group of men, esp a group of friends
generally (derogatory) (esp in former colonial territories) a Black person or native male servant of any age
(Austral) a jockey or apprentice
short for boyfriend
boys will be boys, youthful indiscretion or exuberance must be expected and tolerated
(informal) jobs for the boys, appointment of one's supporters to posts, without reference to their qualifications or ability
(Irish, informal) the boy, the right tool for a particular task: that's the boy to cut it
an exclamation of surprise, pleasure, contempt, etc: boy, is he going to be sorry!
Word Origin
C13 (in the sense: male servant; C14: young male): of uncertain origin; perhaps from Anglo-French abuié fettered (unattested), from Latin boia fetter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for boy

mid-13c., boie "servant, commoner, knave, boy," of unknown origin. Possibly from Old French embuie "one fettered," from Vulgar Latin *imboiare, from Latin boia "leg iron, yoke, leather collar," from Greek boeiai dorai "ox hides." (Words for "boy" double as "servant, attendant" across the Indo-European map -- e.g. Italian ragazzo, French garçon, Greek pais, Middle English knave, Old Church Slavonic otroku -- and often it is difficult to say which meaning came first.)

But it also appears to be identical with East Frisian boi "young gentleman," and perhaps with Dutch boef "knave," from Middle Dutch boeve, perhaps from Middle Low German buobe. This suggests a gradational relationship to babe. For a different conjecture:

In Old English, only the proper name Boia has been recorded. ME boi meant 'churl, servant' and (rarely) 'devil.' In texts, the meaning 'male child' does not antedate 1400. ModE boy looks like a semantic blend of an onomatopoeic word for an evil spirit (*boi) and a baby word for 'brother' (*bo). [Liberman]

A noticable number of the modern words for 'boy', 'girl', and 'child' were originally colloquial nicknames, derogatory or whimsical, in part endearing, and finally commonplace. These, as is natural, are of the most diverse, and in part obscure, origin. [Buck]
Used slightingly of young men in Middle English; meaning "male negro slave or Asian personal servant of any age" attested from c.1600. Exclamation oh, boy attested from 1892.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for boy



(also boy howdy, boy o boy, boys) An exclamation of amazement, shock, happiness, intensification, etc; jeez, man, wow: Boy, that was a close!/ Boy o boy, isn't this great? (1890s+)


  1. A black man: Don't call me ''boy''; I'm as old as you are if not older (1850+)
  2. Any male, regardless of age working as a porter, elevator operator, etc With the implication that it is not the job for a man. Boy has been used as a term of contempt since about 1300
  3. A male who takes the subservient role in a homosexual relationship; Peg Boy (1970s+ Homosexuals)
  4. Heroin: But now he had the boy; he could lie around (1920s+ Narcotics)

Related Terms

big boy, fair-haired boy, good old boy, old boy network, one of the boys, paddy, poor boy, pretty boy, that's my boy, tomboy, walkboy

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with boy


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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