noun, plural boos.
verb (used without object), booed, boo·ing.
verb (used with object), booed, boo·ing.
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Origin of boo1
Words nearby boo
Definition for boo (2 of 3)
Origin of boo2
Definition for boo (3 of 3)
Origin of boo3
BEHIND THE WORD
What else does boo mean?
Where does boo come from?
Boo is familiar to many as Boo!, that noise ghosts and monsters are said to make when they pop out and scare somebody, probably ultimately based on the attention-getting sound of the syllable boo. Latin and Greek also have verbs, as it happens, that also use the boo sound for “shouting” or “crying.”
The phantom boo appears as early as 1738 in a book by Gilbert Crokatt called Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence Display’d, which defined it as “a word that’s used in the north of Scotland to frighten crying children.” The 1808 Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language suggests boo is connected to the mythical Bu-Man, a word apparently related to bogeyman.
What about when people or an audience say boo to condemn a performance, person, or action? While jeering and heckling can be found in accounts of ancient Greek plays, the term boo for the action doesn’t appear until at least 1825 in a theater book called The London Stage.
In the 20th century, boo has been used as slang for a range of things, including marijuana, snot, idiot, and excellent, and is part of other exclamations such as boo-hoo (mocking crying) and booyah (a celebratory cheer). A boo-boo is a children’s term for a minor injury or a mistake.
Boo is also slang for a romantic partner (e.g., my boo, or “sweetheart.”) Maybe from a form of baby or connected to the French beau(x), the pet boo, used much like bae, emerges in 1990s hip-hop slang and spread from there.
A notable early use of the affectionate boo comes in the lyrics of hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 song “Go Ahead in the Rain”: “Lifeless ventures ain’t new, boo.” The same year, rapper Grand Daddy I.U. spit the line: “Yo, boo, I like you, but I like others too.”
The term began popping up on Urban Dictionary in the early 2000s. Its use was further popularized in 2004, when Usher and Alicia Keys released the single “My Boo,” which contains the chorus “You will always be my boo.”
Fun fact: One of the oldest instances of boo in the written record comes in the expression to say boo to a goose, found in the 17th century. That’s not to startle the bird, but “to speak up,” a figure of speech that became to say boo, or “to stick up for yourself.”
How is boo used in real life?
Boo! is used as a sound we imagine ghosts make, usually in a friendly manner, or when people try to jump out and scare someone: Boo! This boo appears in all sorts of Halloween-themed events (Boo! at the Zoo) and puns (It’s a boo-tiful day!)
To boo someone, or booing, is a way to jeer them, particularly if you’re an audience member.
Boo is also a term of affection for a significant other, often as a term of address, e.g., I love you, boo. Boo can also be extended to other loved ones, such as children.
Me and my boo vibing in animal crossing <3 pic.twitter.com/Y8NcYFQTVA
— Reekid (@ReeKidwastaken) May 13, 2020
More examples of boo:
“Ghost Just Dropped By To Say ‘Boo’”
—The Onion, September 2007
“The Toronto crowd booing Lebron whenever he touches the ball is ridiculous.”
—@StephenAmell, May 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for boo
I could call him my “boo,” but when I tried it out he rolled his eyes.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, taken as a part of the TV landscape, actually meant something.
It was a case of the jitters, a nation primed to jump at the word “Boo!”When Mars Attacked 75 Years Ago—And Everyone Believed It|Marc Wortman|October 29, 2013|DAILY BEAST
Big Boo is also one of the few characters who seems to “get” prison.
The U.S. administration would gush over Fayyad, just stopping short of calling him their Boo.
I swept the stairs this morning, but the dust gathers before you can say boo, and that dress won't do up.The Shoulders of Atlas|Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Mr. Perley had arisen and was holding up his hand for silence, when with one terrific "Boo!"Cap'n Eri|Joseph Crosby Lincoln
Its features lighted up with mirth, and the lips formed the unmistakable monosyllable: "Boo!"The Unspeakable Perk|Samuel Hopkins Adams
I was quite a little chap, and hustled out of sight if I said 'boo.'Mrs. Geoffrey|Duchess
My dear old companion, Boo, who was with me, resented this very much: "How can you say such things to my Nelly?"The Story of My Life|Ellen Terry