• enPR: boi, IPA: /bɔɪ/
  • (Southern American English) IPA: /bɔːə/


  1. A young male. [from 15th c.]
    Kate is dating a boy named Jim.
    • 1440, Promptorium Parvulorum, 35:
      Bye or boye: Bostio.
    • 1535, Bible (Coverdale), Zechariah, Chapter VIII, Verse 5:
      The stretes of the citie shalbe full of yonge boyes and damselles...
    • 1711 March 7, Jonathan Swift, Journal, line 208:
      I find I was mistaken in the sex, 'tis a boy.
    • 1812, Lord Byron, Childe Harold, Canto II, xxiii, 72:
      Ah! happy years! once more who would not be a boy?
    1. (particularly) A male child or teenager, as distinguished from infants or adults.
      • 1876, Frances Eliza Millett Notley, The Kiddle-a-Wink, "A Tale of Love", page 169 ↗:
        "He is not quite a baby, Alfred," said Ellen, "though he is only a big stupid boy. We have made him miserable enough. Let us leave him alone."
  2. (diminutive) A male child: a son of any age.
    • 1805, Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel:
      My only boy fell by the side of great Dundee.
  3. (affectionate, diminutive) A male of any age, particularly one rather younger than the speaker. [from 17th c.]
  4. (obsolete) A male of low station, (especially as pejorative) a worthless male, a wretch; a mean and dishonest male, a knave. [14th-17th c.]
    • 1608, William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I Scene 4:
      Dost thou call me fool, boy?
  5. (now, rare and usually, offensive outside some Commonwealth nations) A male servant, slave, assistant, or employee, [from 14th c.] particularly:
    • circa 1300 King Horn, line 1075:
      þe boye hit scholde abugge; Horn þreu him ouer þe brigge.
    • 1973, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, i, 37:
      ‘Why does he go out and pinch all his dogs in person? He's an administrator, isn't he? Wouldn't he hire a boy or something?’
      ‘We call them “staff”,’ Roger replies.
    1. A younger such worker.
      • 1721, Penelope Aubin, The Life of Madam de Beaumount, ii, 36:
        I resolved to continue in the Cave, with my two Servants, my Maid, and a Boy, whom I had brought from France.
    2. (historical or offensive) A non-white male servant regardless of age, [from 17th c.] particularly as a form of address.
      • 1625, W. Hawkins in Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes, Vol. I, iii, vii, 211:
        My Boy Stephen Grauener.
      • 1834, Edward Markham, New Zealand or Recollections of It, 72:
        They picked out two of the strongest of the Boys (as they call the Men) about the place.
      • 1876, Ebenezer Thorne, The Queen of the Colonies, or, Queensland as I Knew It, 58:
        The blacks who work on a station or farm are always, like the blacks in the Southern States, called boys.
      • 1907 May 13, N.Y. Evening Post, 6:
        [In Shanghai,] The register clerk assigns you to a room, and instead of ‘Front!’ he shouts ‘Boy!’
      • 1960 February 5, Northern Territory News, 5/5:
        Aborigine Wally... described himself as ‘number one boy’ at the station.
    3. (obsolete) A male camp follower.
      • 1572, John Sadler translating Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Foure Bookes... Contayninge a Plaine Forme, and Perfect Knowledge of Martiall Policye..., iii, vii:
        If any water be rough and boysterous, or the chanell verye broade, it manye times drowneth the carriages and the boyes and nowe and then slouthfull and lyther souldiours.
      • 1600, William Shakespeare, The Cronicle History of Henry the Fift..., Act IV, Scene vii, 1:
        Godes plud kil the boyes and the lugyge,
        Tis the arrants peece of knauery...
  6. (now, offensive) Any non-white male, regardless of age. [from 19th c.]
    • 1812, Anne Plumptre translating Hinrich Lichtenstein, Travels in Southern Africa, in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, Vol. I, i, viii, 119:
      A Hottentot... expects to be called by his name if addressed by any one who knows it; and by those to whom it is not known he expects to be called Hottentot... or boy.
    • 1888, Louis Diston Powles, Land of Pink Pearl, or Recollections of Life in the Bahamas, 66:
      Every darky, however old, is a boy.
    • 1973 September 8, Black Panther, 7/2:
      [In Alabama,] Guards still use the term ‘boy’ to refer to Black prisoners.
    • 1979, Bert Newton and Mohammed Ali, The Logie Awards:
      BN: [repeating a catchphrase] I like the boy.
      MA: [to hostile audience] Hold it, hold it, hold it. Easy. Did you say ‘Roy’ or ‘boy’?
      BN: ‘I like the boy’. There's nothing wrong with saying that... Hang on, hang on, hang on... I'll change religion, I'll do anything for ya, I don't bloody care... What's wrong with saying that? ‘I like the boy’?
      MA: Boy...
      BN: I mean, I like the man. I'm sorry, Muhammad.
  7. A male animal, especially, in affectionate address, a male dog. [from 15th c.]
    C'mere, boy! Good boy! Who's a good boy?
    Are you getting a boy cat or a girl cat?
  8. (historical, military) A former low rank of various armed services; a holder of this rank.
    • 1841 May 6, Times in London, 5/4:
      Wounded... 1 Boy, 1st class, severely.
    • 1963 April 30, Times in London, 16/2:
      He joined the Navy as a boy second class in 1898.
  9. (US, slang, uncountable) Heroin. [from 20th c.]
  10. (somewhat, childish) A male (tree, gene, etc).
    • 1950, Pageant:
      Are there “boy” trees and “girl” trees? Yes. A number of species, among them the yew, holly and date-bearing palm, have their male and female flowers on different trees. The male holly, for instance, must be planted fairly close to the female ...
    • 1970 [earlier 1963], Helen V. Wilson, Helen Van Pelt, Helen Van Pelt's African Violets, Dutton Adult (ISBN 9780801538582):
      Of the 100 percent total, 25 will have two girl genes, 50 will have one boy and one girl gene, and 25 will have two boy genes.
Synonyms Antonyms Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • Italian: negro
  • Russian: черноко́жий
Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • Portuguese: garotão
  1. Exclamation of surprise, pleasure or longing.
    Boy, that was close!
    Boy, that tastes good!
    Boy, I wish I could go to Canada!
Related terms Translations
  • Portuguese: puxa
  • Russian: блин

boy (boys, present participle boying; past and past participle boyed)

  1. To use the word “boy” to refer to someone.
    Don't boy me!
  2. (transitive) To act as a boy (in allusion to the former practice of boys acting women's parts on the stage).
    • c. 1606–1607, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act V, scene ii]:
      I shall see some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness.

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