Origin of bully

First recorded in 1530–40, bully is from the Middle Dutch word boele lover
Related formsbul·ly·a·ble, adjectiveun·bul·lied, adjectiveun·bul·ly·ing, adjective

Synonyms for bully

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bullied

Contemporary Examples of bullied

Historical Examples of bullied

  • Why, they've hounded you and bullied you until they've made you think you are bad, Andrew.

  • Yes, he has been so harsh to you; but it is his nature, he is so to every one, and you are not the only one whom he has bullied.

    The Black Tulip

    Alexandre Dumas (Pere)

  • And all that time they had submitted to be bullied and blustered at.

    Cleo The Magnificent

    Louis Zangwill

  • But after a quarrel, when the laundress had bullied her, the old woman was not sparing in her allusions.


    Emile Zola

  • He hated all cats but his own cat, by whom he was bullied in a most outrageous way.

British Dictionary definitions for bullied



noun plural -lies

a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people
archaic a hired ruffian
obsolete a procurer; pimp
obsolete a fine fellow or friend
obsolete a sweetheart; darling

verb -lies, -lying or -lied

(when tr , often foll by into) to hurt, intimidate, or persecute (a weaker or smaller person), esp to make him do something


dashing; jollymy bully boy
informal very good; fine


Also: bully for you informal well done! bravo!

Word Origin for bully

C16 (in the sense: sweetheart, hence fine fellow, hence swaggering coward): probably from Middle Dutch boele lover, from Middle High German buole, perhaps childish variant of bruoder brother



noun plural -lies

any of various small freshwater fishes of the genera Gobiomorphus and Philynodon of New ZealandAlso called (NZ): pakoko, titarakura, toitoi

Word Origin for bully

C20: short for cockabully
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 bullied

1851, past participle adjective from bully (v.).



1530s, originally "sweetheart," applied to either sex, from Dutch boel "lover; brother," probably a diminutive of Middle Dutch broeder "brother" (cf. Middle High German buole "brother," source of German Buhle "lover;" see brother (n.)).

Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine fellow" and "blusterer" to "harasser of the weak" (1680s, from bully-ruffian, 1650s). Perhaps this was by influence of bull (n.1), but a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" may be in "protector of a prostitute," which was one sense of bully (though not specifically attested until 1706). The expression meaning "worthy, jolly, admirable" (especially in 1864 U.S. slang bully for you!) is first attested 1680s, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word.



1710, from bully (n.). Related: Bullied; bullying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper