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 bulliest

Historical Examples of bulliest

  • "I'll give you the bulliest shine you ever had," said the ragamuffin.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • His nerve all through was the bulliest thing you ever saw, Uncle Bill.

  • And the one in this book was the bulliest fighter of the lot.

    T. Tembarom

    Frances Hodgson Burnett

  • "Annie's the bulliest maid we ever had," Bobby had returned appreciatively.

  • It is for meabout the bulliest fun I ever had in my life, said young Kent.

    The Boss of Wind River

    David Goodger (goodger@python.org)

British Dictionary definitions for bulliest



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 bulliest



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