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[boo l] /bʊl/
John, John Bull. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for johnny bull
Historical Examples
  • But, oh, Matt, if old johnny bull ever gets his horns into her we can kiss her good-bye.

    Cappy Ricks Retires Peter B. Kyne
  • For the love of Heaven, get your trout to bank, johnny bull!

    American Notes Rudyard Kipling
  • From those sections came the hardy sons of liberty, who taught johnny bull anew to respect the rights of the common people.

    Sustained honor John R. Musick,
  • It isn't so very dreadful that I can see, to be mistaken for a johnny bull.

  • We have whipped johnny bull just as I am going to thrash you under that very flag which you were pleased to designate a rag.'

    Bessie's Fortune Mary J. Holmes
  • For the love of Heaven, get your trout to bank, johnny bull.

    From Sea to Sea Rudyard Kipling
  • They called him "johnny bull," and invited him with excessive familiarity to take a hand.

    The American Claimant Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • Much o' what I read in johnny bull might ha' been written by me.

    The Soul of Susan Yellam Horace Annesley Vachell
  • The doctor, with true johnny bull pluck, replied volley for volley, and the battle lasted for above an hour.

    The Funny Side of Physic A. D. Crabtre
  • Boys, johnny bull can tell us what would happen if I was to snatch this chump's cap off and slap him in the face with it.

    The American Claimant Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
British Dictionary definitions for johnny bull


any male bovine animal, esp one that is sexually mature related adjective taurine
the uncastrated adult male of any breed of domestic cattle
the male of various other animals including the elephant and whale
a very large, strong, or aggressive person
(stock exchange)
  1. a speculator who buys in anticipation of rising prices in order to make a profit on resale
  2. (as modifier): a bull market Compare bear1 (sense 5)
(mainly Brit) short for bull's-eye (sense 1), bull's-eye (sense 2)
(slang) short for bullshit
short for bulldog, bull terrier
a bull in a china shop, a clumsy person
(US & Canadian, slang) shoot the bull
  1. to pass time talking lightly
  2. to boast or exaggerate
take the bull by the horns, to face and tackle a difficulty without shirking
male; masculine: a bull elephant
large; strong
(transitive) to raise or attempt to raise the price or prices of (a stock market or a security) by speculative buying
(intransitive) (of a cow) to be on heat
(intransitive) (US, slang) to talk lightly or foolishly
Word Origin
Old English bula, from Old Norse boli; related to Middle Low German bulle, Middle Dutch bolle


a ludicrously self-contradictory or inconsistent statement Also called Irish bull
Word Origin
C17: of uncertain origin


a formal document issued by the pope, written in antiquated characters and often sealed with a leaden bulla
Word Origin
C13: from Medieval Latin bulla seal attached to a bull, from Latin: round object


the Bull, the constellation Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac


John. 1563–1628, English composer and organist
See John Bull
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 johnny bull



"bovine male animal," from Old English bula "a bull, a steer," or Old Norse boli "bull," both from Proto-Germanic *bullon- (cf. Middle Dutch bulle, Dutch bul, German Bulle), perhaps from a Germanic verbal stem meaning "to roar," which survives in some German dialects and perhaps in the first element of boulder (q.v.). The other possibility [Watkins] is that the Germanic root is from PIE *bhln-, from root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole).

An uncastrated male, reared for breeding, as opposed to a bullock or steer. Extended after 1610s to males of other large animals (elephant, alligator, whale, etc.). Stock market sense is from 1714 (see bear (n.)). Meaning "policeman" attested by 1859. Figurative phrase to take the bull by the horns first recorded 1711. To be a bull in a china shop, figurative of careless and inappropriate use of force, attested from 1812 and was the title of a popular humorous song in 1820s England. Bull-baiting attested from 1570s.

"papal edict," c.1300, from Medieval Latin bulla "sealed document" (source of Old French bulle, Italian bulla), originally the word for the seal itself, from Latin bulla "round swelling, knob," said ultimately to be from Gaulish, from PIE *beu-, a root supposed to have formed words associated with swelling (cf. Lithuanian bule "buttocks," Middle Dutch puyl "bag," also possibly Latin bucca "cheek").

"false talk, fraud," Middle English, apparently from Old French bole "deception, trick, scheming, intrigue," and perhaps connected to modern Icelandic bull "nonsense."

Sais christ to ypocrites ... yee ar ... all ful with wickednes, tresun and bull. ["Cursor Mundi," early 14c.]
There also was a verb bull meaning "to mock, cheat," which dates from 1530s.


"push through roughly," 1884, from bull (n.1). Related: Bulled; bulling.

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



: abull market


  1. A peace officer of any kind, esp a uniformed police officer •London police constables were called bull-dogs by 1710 (1850s+)
  2. An elephant, of either sex (1920s+ Circus)
  3. An ace • Short for bullet (1940s+ Poker)
  4. Bull Durham2 ,a very popular brand of tobacco for rolling cigarettes (1930s+)
  5. A locomotive (1880s+ Railroad)
  6. The chief; head man; boss, bull of the woods (1940s+ Loggers & cowboys)
  7. A dealer who favors higher prices and quicker selling (1700s+ Stock market)
  8. bullshit (1900+)


: We were sitting around bulling/ He was bulling about his enormous talent

Related Terms

all that kind of crap, bull session, bullwork, cock-and-bull story, full of shit, shoot the bull, sling it, throw the bull

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 johnny bull
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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