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[boo l-ee]
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noun, plural bul·lies.
  1. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
  2. Archaic. a man hired to do violence.
  3. Obsolete. a pimp; procurer.
  4. Obsolete. good friend; good fellow.
  5. Obsolete. sweetheart; darling.
verb (used with object), bul·lied, bul·ly·ing.
  1. to act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.
verb (used without object), bul·lied, bul·ly·ing.
  1. to be loudly arrogant and overbearing.
  1. Informal. fine; excellent; very good.
  2. dashing; jovial; high-spirited.
  1. Informal. good! well done!

Origin of bully1

First recorded in 1530–40, bully is from the Middle Dutch word boele lover
Related formsbul·ly·a·ble, adjectiveun·bul·lied, adjectiveun·bul·ly·ing, adjective


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6. cow, browbeat, coerce; terrorize, tyrannize.


[boo l-ee]
  1. bully beef.

Origin of bully2

1865–70; < French bouilli, short for boeuf bouilli boiled meat. See boil1, beef


[boo l-ee]
noun, plural bul·lies.
  1. Soccer. a desperate, freewheeling scramble for the ball by a number of players, usually in the goal area.
  2. Field Hockey. a method of putting the ball into play in which two opponents, facing each other, tap their sticks on the ground near the ball and then make contact with each other's sticks over the ball three times, after which each tries to gain possession of the ball.

Origin of bully3

First recorded in 1860–65; of obscure origin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for bully


noun plural -lies
  1. a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people
  2. archaic a hired ruffian
  3. obsolete a procurer; pimp
  4. obsolete a fine fellow or friend
  5. obsolete a sweetheart; darling
verb -lies, -lying or -lied
  1. (when tr , often foll by into) to hurt, intimidate, or persecute (a weaker or smaller person), esp to make him do something
  1. dashing; jollymy bully boy
  2. informal very good; fine
  1. Also: bully for you informal well done! bravo!

Word Origin

C16 (in the sense: sweetheart, hence fine fellow, hence swaggering coward): probably from Middle Dutch boele lover, from Middle High German buole, perhaps childish variant of bruoder brother


noun plural -lies
  1. any of various small freshwater fishes of the genera Gobiomorphus and Philynodon of New ZealandAlso called (NZ): pakoko, titarakura, toitoi

Word Origin

C20: short for cockabully
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

Word Origin and History for bully


1530s, originally "sweetheart," applied to either sex, from Dutch boel "lover; brother," probably a diminutive of Middle Dutch broeder "brother" (cf. Middle High German buole "brother," source of German Buhle "lover;" see brother (n.)).

Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine fellow" and "blusterer" to "harasser of the weak" (1680s, from bully-ruffian, 1650s). Perhaps this was by influence of bull (n.1), but a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" may be in "protector of a prostitute," which was one sense of bully (though not specifically attested until 1706). The expression meaning "worthy, jolly, admirable" (especially in 1864 U.S. slang bully for you!) is first attested 1680s, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word.


1710, from bully (n.). Related: Bullied; bullying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper