From 1530, as a term of endearment, probably a diminutive ( + -y) of Dutch boel (“lover; brother”), from Middle Dutch boel, boele (“brother; lover”), from Old Dutch *bōlo, from Proto-Germanic *bōlô (compare Middle Low German bōle (“brother”), Middle High German buole (“brother; close relative; close relation”) (whence German Buhle (“lover”)), Old English Bōla, Bōlla (personal name), diminutive of expressive *bō- (“brother, father”). Compare also Latvian bālinš (“brother”). More at boy.
The term acquired negative senses during the 17th century; first ‘noisy, blustering fellow’ then ‘a person who is cruel to others’. Possibly influenced by bull (“male cattle”) or via the ‘prostitute's minder’ sense.
- A person who is physically or emotionally cruel to others, especially to those who are weaker or have less power. [from late 17th c.]
- A playground bully pushed a girl off the swing.
- I noticed you being a bully towards people with disabilities.
- A noisy, blustering fellow, more insolent than courageous; one who is threatening and quarrelsome; an insolent, tyrannical fellow.
- A hired thug.
- A prostitute’s minder; a pimp.
- (uncountable) Bully beef.
- (obsolete) A brisk, dashing fellow.
- The small scrum in the Eton College field game.
- Various small freshwater or brackishwater fish of the family Eleotridae; sleeper goby.
- (obsolete or dialectal, Ireland and Northern England) An (eldest) brother; a fellow workman; comrade
- 1824, Gilchrist, Robert, “The Skipper's Erudition”, in A Collection of Original Local Songs, page 11:
- Frae Team Gut to Whitley, we' coals black an' brown
For the Amphitrite loaded, the keel had come down—
But the bullies ower neet had their gobs se oft wet,
That the nyem o' the ship yen an' a' did forget.
- (dialectal) A companion; mate. (male or female)
- (obsolete) darling, sweetheart. (male or female)
- (field hockey) a standoff between two players from the opposing teams, who repeatedly hit each other's hockey sticks and then attempt to acquire the ball, as a method of resuming the game in certain circumstances.
- (mining) A miner's hammer.
- (prostitute's minder): see Thesaurus:pimp
- (companion, mate): see Thesaurus:friend
- (darling, sweetheart): see Thesaurus:sweetheart
- (transitive) To intimidate (someone) as a bully.
- You shouldn't bully people for being gay.
- (transitive) To act aggressively towards.
- 2011 January 15, Sam Sheringham, “Chelsea 2 -03 Blackburn Rovers”, in BBC:
- The Potters know their strengths and played to them perfectly here, out-muscling Bolton in midfield and bullying the visitors' back-line at every opportunity.
- (US, slang) Very good; excellent.
- a bully horse
- 1861, Daniel Bryant, Bryant's Songs from Dixie's Land, page 19:
- To sing a bully song I'll try, / Bully for you, bully for you, / Gay as they make them, here I am, / Bully for you, for you.
- (slang) Jovial and blustering.
- Synonym: dashing
- 1597, William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor Act II, scene iii:
- Bless thee, bully doctor!
- (excellent): See Thesaurus:excellent
- (Well done!): See Thesaurus:well done
bully m (plural bully's)
- (field hockey) bully (way of resuming the game with a standoff between two opposing players who repeatedly hit each other's sticks, then try to gain possession of the ball)