[ at-uh-boi ]
/ ˈæt əˌbɔɪ /
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interjection Informal.
(used as an enthusiastic expression of encouragement or approval to a boy, man, or male animal.)
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Origin of attaboy

1905–10, Americanism; alleged to be a reduced form of that's a boy or that's the boy
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does attaboy mean?

Attaboy is an informal expression of enthusiastic praise or encouragement addressed to boys, men, and male animals (such as one’s dog).

Attaboy is an interjection, meaning it’s a term used to express emotion, often outside of a sentence.

The term attagirl can be used in the same way to address girls, women, and female animals.

Such terms are generally used as a way to cheer someone on, similar to saying “Great job!” or “Way to go!” For example, coaches or parents might say it to a child playing a sport after they’ve done something particularly good.

Attaboy is sometimes used as a noun referring to a statement of praise, as in The boss doesn’t usually give out attaboys like that, so he must be pretty impressed.  

Example: Attaboy, Ben! Great catch!

Where does attaboy come from?

The first records of attaboy come from the early 1900s. It was first and is primarily used in the U.S. It’s thought to be a shortened form of that’s a boy or that’s the boy, but it’s origin isn’t certain.

A similar phrase is That’s my boy! Obviously, this is said by parents, typically as a form of expressing pride in their son and something he has accomplished. Attaboy can imply this pride, but it’s primarily a way of cheering someone on, and that person doesn’t have to be the speaker’s son. Although the word boy appears inside the word, it can also refer to men—or even animals, especially dogs, as in Sit, Fido. Attaboy!

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What are some other forms related to attaboy?

  • attaboys (plural noun)

What are some synonyms for attaboy?

What are some words that share a root or word element with attaboy


What are some words that often get used in discussing attaboy?

How is attaboy used in real life?

Attaboy is always used informally. It’s perhaps most commonly used by parents to cheer on their sons during sports.



Try using attaboy!

Is attaboy used correctly in the following sentence?

Attaboy, Timmy—now you’re getting the hang of it!

How to use attaboy in a sentence

  • He was censured by his colleagues in the House but given an “Attaboy, Charlie!”

    The Daily Beast 2010 Political Awards|Samuel P. Jacobs|December 21, 2010|DAILY BEAST
  • In the ominous silence a cracked voice yelped: "Attaboy Fenton!"

    Vulcan's Workshop|Harl Vincent
  • He did go and support the team, and enhance the glory of Zenith, by yelling "Attaboy!"

    Babbitt|Sinclair Lewis
  • It will be observed that Mr. Burke has given his attaboy a "t" too many.

    Pieces of Hate|Heywood Broun

British Dictionary definitions for attaboy

/ (ˈætəˌbɔɪ) /

sentence substitute
slang, mainly US an expression of approval or exhortation
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