See more synonyms for boy on
  1. a male child, from birth to full growth, especially one less than 18 years of age.
  2. a young man who lacks maturity, judgment, etc.
  3. Informal. a grown man, especially when referred to familiarly: He liked to play poker with the boys.
  4. a son: Sam's oldest boy is helping him in the business.
  5. a male who is from or native to a given place.
  6. 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.
  7. boys, military personnel, especially combat soldiers: Support the boys overseas.
  8. 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.
  9. a young male servant; page.
  10. Offensive. (in India, China, Japan, etc.) a native male servant, working as a butler, waiter, houseboy, etc.
  11. Nautical. an apprentice seaman or fisherman.
interjection Also oh, boy.
  1. 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 confusedboy 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for boy

Contemporary Examples of boy

Historical Examples of boy

  • "Men say it is not so grand as the statue of Zeus, that we have at Olympia," replied the boy.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • The boy came forward, and examined the stranger with curiosity.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • She won't think much of a boy that has to pick berries for a living.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • It does not often fall to the lot of a boy to perform a deed so heroic.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • I couldn't begin to tell you all the bad things he did when he was a boy.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

British Dictionary definitions for boy


  1. a male child; lad; youth
  2. a man regarded as immature or inexperiencedhe's just a boy when it comes to dealing with women
  3. See old boy
  4. informal a group of men, esp a group of friends
  5. usually derogatory (esp in former colonial territories) a Black person or native male servant of any age
  6. Australian a jockey or apprentice
  7. short for boyfriend
  8. boys will be boys youthful indiscretion or exuberance must be expected and tolerated
  9. jobs for the boys informal appointment of one's supporters to posts, without reference to their qualifications or ability
  10. the boy Irish informal the right tool for a particular taskthat's the boy to cut it
  1. an exclamation of surprise, pleasure, contempt, etcboy, is he going to be sorry!

Word Origin for boy

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

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

Idioms and Phrases with boy


In addition to the idiom beginning with boys

  • boys will be boys

also see:

  • fair-haired boy
  • mama's boy
  • separate the men from the boys
  • whipping boy
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.