[ boi ]
See 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.

  1. Informal. a grown man, especially when referred to familiarly: He liked to play poker with the boys.

  2. a son: Sam's oldest boy is helping him in the business.

  3. a male who is from or native to a given place: He's a Mississippi boy.

  4. boys, (used with a singular or plural verb)

    • a range of sizes from 8 to 20 in garments made for boys.

    • a garment in this size range.

    • the department or section of a store where these garments are sold.

  5. boys, military personnel, especially combat soldiers: Support the boys overseas.

  6. 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.

  7. a young male servant; page.

  8. Offensive. (in India, China, Japan, etc.) a male servant, working as a butler, waiter, houseboy, etc.

  9. Nautical. an apprentice seaman or fisherman.

interjectionAlso oh, boy .
  1. an exclamation of wonder, approval, etc., or of displeasure or contempt.

Origin of boy

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English boy(e), perhaps after Old English Bōia a man's name; cognate with Frisian boi “young man”; akin to Old English bōfa, Old Norse bōfi, Old High German Buobo a man's name (German Bube “knave” (dialectal “boy, lad”)

usage note For boy

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.

Words that may be confused with boy Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use boy in a sentence

  • The boys were tumbling about, clinging to his legs, imploring that numerous things be brought back to them.

  • His wife stood smiling and waving, the boys shouting, as he disappeared in the old rockaway down the sandy road.

  • A flightless, juvenal female was obtained by local boys at Pisté on July 21.

  • He had five girls by his first wife; there is no reason why this splendid cow I have picked out should not produce a dozen boys.

    Ancestors | Gertrude Atherton
  • If I can rustle horses I'll send these two boys on home, with a note to the old man explaining how the play came up.

    Raw Gold | Bertrand W. Sinclair

British Dictionary definitions for boy


/ (bɔɪ) /

  1. a male child; lad; youth

  2. a man regarded as immature or inexperienced: he's just a boy when it comes to dealing with women

  1. informal a group of men, esp a group of friends

  2. usually derogatory (esp in former colonial territories) a Black person or native male servant of any age

  3. Australian a jockey or apprentice

  4. short for boyfriend

  5. boys will be boys youthful indiscretion or exuberance must be expected and tolerated

  6. jobs for the boys informal appointment of one's supporters to posts, without reference to their qualifications or ability

  7. the boy Irish informal the right tool for a particular task: that's the boy to cut it

  1. an exclamation of surprise, pleasure, contempt, etc: boy, is he going to be sorry!

Origin of 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

Other 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.