• synonyms


[boo l]
See more synonyms for bull on Thesaurus.com
noun Slang.
  1. exaggerations; lies; nonsense.
Show More
  1. shoot the bull, to talk aimlessly: We just sat around shooting the bull.
Show More

Origin of bull3

1620–30; < Medieval Latin bulla play, game, jest, perhaps special use of Latin bulla bubble; now generally taken as a euphemistic shortening of bullshit
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


British Dictionary definitions for shoot the bull


  1. the Bull the constellation Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac
Show More


  1. John . 1563–1628, English composer and organist
  2. See John Bull
Show More


  1. any male bovine animal, esp one that is sexually matureRelated adjective: taurine
  2. the uncastrated adult male of any breed of domestic cattle
  3. the male of various other animals including the elephant and whale
  4. a very large, strong, or aggressive person
  5. stock exchange
    1. a speculator who buys in anticipation of rising prices in order to make a profit on resale
    2. (as modifier)a bull market Compare bear 1 (def. 5)
  6. mainly British short for bull's-eye (def. 1), bull's-eye (def. 2)
  7. slang short for bullshit
  8. short for bulldog, bull terrier
  9. a bull in a china shop a clumsy person
  10. shoot the bull US and Canadian slang
    1. to pass time talking lightly
    2. to boast or exaggerate
  11. take the bull by the horns to face and tackle a difficulty without shirking
Show More
  1. male; masculinea bull elephant
  2. large; strong
Show More
  1. (tr) to raise or attempt to raise the price or prices of (a stock market or a security) by speculative buying
  2. (intr) (of a cow) to be on heat
  3. (intr) US slang to talk lightly or foolishly
Show More

Word Origin

Old English bula, from Old Norse boli; related to Middle Low German bulle, Middle Dutch bolle


  1. a ludicrously self-contradictory or inconsistent statementAlso called: Irish bull
Show More

Word Origin

C17: of uncertain origin


  1. a formal document issued by the pope, written in antiquated characters and often sealed with a leaden bulla
Show More

Word Origin

C13: from Medieval Latin bulla seal attached to a bull, from Latin: round object
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 shoot the bull



"bovine male animal," from Old English bula "a bull, a steer," or Old Norse boli "bull," both from Proto-Germanic *bullon- (cf. Middle Dutch bulle, Dutch bul, German Bulle), perhaps from a Germanic verbal stem meaning "to roar," which survives in some German dialects and perhaps in the first element of boulder (q.v.). The other possibility [Watkins] is that the Germanic root is from PIE *bhln-, from root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole).

An uncastrated male, reared for breeding, as opposed to a bullock or steer. Extended after 1610s to males of other large animals (elephant, alligator, whale, etc.). Stock market sense is from 1714 (see bear (n.)). Meaning "policeman" attested by 1859. Figurative phrase to take the bull by the horns first recorded 1711. To be a bull in a china shop, figurative of careless and inappropriate use of force, attested from 1812 and was the title of a popular humorous song in 1820s England. Bull-baiting attested from 1570s.

Show More



"papal edict," c.1300, from Medieval Latin bulla "sealed document" (source of Old French bulle, Italian bulla), originally the word for the seal itself, from Latin bulla "round swelling, knob," said ultimately to be from Gaulish, from PIE *beu-, a root supposed to have formed words associated with swelling (cf. Lithuanian bule "buttocks," Middle Dutch puyl "bag," also possibly Latin bucca "cheek").

Show More



"push through roughly," 1884, from bull (n.1). Related: Bulled; bulling.

Show More



"false talk, fraud," Middle English, apparently from Old French bole "deception, trick, scheming, intrigue," and perhaps connected to modern Icelandic bull "nonsense."

Sais christ to ypocrites ... yee ar ... all ful with wickednes, tresun and bull. ["Cursor Mundi," early 14c.]

There also was a verb bull meaning "to mock, cheat," which dates from 1530s.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shoot the bull


In addition to the idioms beginning with bull

  • bull in a china shop
  • bull session

also see:

  • cock and bull story
  • hit the bull's-eye
  • shoot the breeze (bull)
  • take the bull by the horns
Show More
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.