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    bobcat (n.) — bonbon (n.)

    bobcat (n.)

    North American lynx, 1873, in a Maine context; so called for its short tail; see bob (n.2) + cat (n.).ETD bobcat (n.).2

    bobolink (n.)

    North American passerine bird, 1796, American English, earlier bob-lincoln, bob-o-Lincoln (1774), imitative of its hearty spring song.ETD bobolink (n.).2

    bobsled (n.)

    also bob-sled, 1839, originally used for hauling timber, from bob (n.2) + sled (n.). So called because it is a short type, or because its body rested on short bobs, one behind the other.ETD bobsled (n.).2

    bobtail (n.)

    also bob-tail, c. 1600, "tail of a horse cut short," from bob (n.2) + tail (n.). Related: Bobtailed.ETD bobtail (n.).2

    bobwhite (n.)

    also bob-white, North American partridge or quail, 1819, so called from the sound of its cry.ETD bobwhite (n.).2

    bocce (n.)

    ball game related to bowls, 1860, from Italian bocce "(wooden) balls," plural of boccia, which is related to French bosse "bump, hump," and perhaps from a Germanic source.ETD bocce (n.).2


    the name means "big-mouth" in Italian, from boccaccia, augmentative of bocca "mouth" (see bouche).ETD Boccaccio.2

    Boche (n.)

    "German soldier in World War I," 1914, perhaps from French slang boche "rascal," applied to the Germans; a word of unknown origin. Another theory traces it to French Allemand "German," in eastern French Al(le)moche, altered contemptuously to Alboche by association with caboche, a slang word for "head," literally "cabbage" (compare tete de boche, French for "German" in an 1887 slang dictionary). None of the French terms is older than mid-19c.ETD Boche (n.).2

    bock (n.)

    strong, dark type of German beer, 1856, from German ambock, from Bavarian dialectal pronunciation of Einbecker bier, from Einbeck, Hanover, where it was first brewed; popularly associated with Bock "a goat." Brewed in December and January, drunk in May.ETD bock (n.).2

    bod (n.)

    1788, "a person," short for body. Meaning "physical body" is recorded from 1933.ETD bod (n.).2

    bodacious (adj.)

    1837 (implied in bodaciously), Southern U.S. slang, perhaps from bodyaciously "bodily, totally," or a blend of bold and audacious, which suits the earliest attested sense of the word. Popularized anew by the 1982 Hollywood film "An Officer and a Gentleman."ETD bodacious (adj.).2

    bode (v.)

    Old English bodian "proclaim, announce; announce beforehand, foretell," from boda "messenger," probably from Proto-Germanic *budon- (source also of Old Saxon gibod, German gebot, Old Norse boð), from PIE root *bheudh- "be aware, make aware."ETD bode (v.).2

    With good or ill, "give a (good or bad) portent or promise," late 14c. As a shortened form of forebode "presage" (usually something evil), it dates from 1740. Related: Boded; boding.ETD bode (v.).3

    bodega (n.)

    1846, "wine shop," from Mexican Spanish, from Spanish bodega "a wine shop; wine-cellar," from Latin apotheca, from Greek apothēkē "depot, store" (see apothecary). Since 1970s in American English it has come to mean "corner convenience store or grocery," especially in a Spanish-speaking community, but in New York City and some other places used generically. Also a doublet of boutique. Italian cognate bottega entered English c. 1900 as "artist's workshop or studio," especially in Italy.ETD bodega (n.).2

    Bodhisattva (n.)

    "one of a class of beings in Mahayana Buddhism who have attained supreme wisdom," 1828, from Sanskrit, literally "one whose essence is perfect knowledge," from bodhi "perfect knowledge" (see Buddha) + sattva "reality, being," from sat-, sant- "existing, true, virtuous," from PIE root *es- "to be."ETD Bodhisattva (n.).2

    body (n.)

    Middle English bodi, from Old English bodig "trunk of a man or beast; the whole physical structure of a human or animal; material frame, material existence of a human; main or principal part of anything," related to Old High German botah, but otherwise of unknown origin. Not elsewhere in Germanic, and the word has died out in German (replaced by Leib, originally "life," and Körper, from Latin), "but in English body remains as a great and important word" [OED].ETD body (n.).2

    The extension to "a person, a human being" is by c. 1300. The meaning "main part" of anything was in late Old English, hence its use in reference to vehicles (1520s). From 1580s as "part of the dress which covers the body."ETD body (n.).3

    It is attested from 1590s as "main part of a group, any number of individuals spoken of collectively" and from 1660s as "main portion of a document." Contrasted with soul at least since mid-13c. The meaning "corpse" ("dead body") is from c. 1200. The word was transferred to matter generally in Middle English (as in heavenly body, late 14c.).ETD body (n.).4

    Body politic "the nation, the state, whole body of people living under an organized government" is recorded from late 15c., with French word order. Body image was coined 1934. Body count "number of enemy killed in battle or otherwise" is from 1968, from the Vietnam War. Body language is attested from 1967, perhaps from French langage corporel (1966). Body-snatcher "one who secretly disinters the bodies of the recently dead for dissection" is from 1834. Defiant phrase over my dead body attested by 1833.ETD body (n.).5

    bodice (n.)

    1560s, oddly spelled plural of body, originally the name of a tight-fitting Elizabethan inner stays or corset, laced in front, covering the torso, worn by women and sometimes men; plural because the body came in two parts which fastened in the middle. For the spelling, compare deuce. In modern use, an outer laced garment covering the waist and bust worn by women, often as an ornament.ETD bodice (n.).2

    Bodice-ripper for "racy romance novel" is from 1981. Related: Bodiced.ETD bodice (n.).3

    bodiless (adj.)

    late 14c., "not consisting of material substance, incorporeal," from body (n.) + -less.ETD bodiless (adj.).2

    bodily (adj.)

    c. 1300, "pertaining to the body;" also opposed to "spiritual;" from body + -ly (1). As an adverb (with -ly (2)) from late 14c.ETD bodily (adj.).2

    bodkin (n.)

    c. 1300, badeken, boydekin, "short, small dagger, pointed weapon," a word of unknown origin. The ending suggests a diminutive formation, and Celtic has been suggested as the source of the primitive, "In default of finding it elsewhere" [OED], but Century Dictionary rejects this.ETD bodkin (n.).2


    from Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613), who in 1597 refounded the library at Oxford University.ETD Bodleian.2


    1880, typeface based on that used by celebrated Italian printer Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813) of Parma. The modern type of this name is a composite of his many forms.ETD Bodoni.2

    body-bag (n.)

    originally a kind of sleeping bag, 1885, from body (n.) + bag (n.). As a plastic bag to transport a dead body, by 1967.ETD body-bag (n.).2

    body-builder (n.)

    by 1916 as "one devoted to cultivating fitness and strength," used earlier in reference to healthful nutriments and coach-body makers. In the modern sense probably from body-building, which is attested by 1892, perhaps 1881, in the "training for physical strength and fitness" sense, said to have been coined by R. J. Roberts, superintendent of the Boston Y.M.C.A. gymnasium. See body (n.) + build (v.).ETD body-builder (n.).2

    bodyguard (n.)

    also body-guard, 1735, "retinue, escort charged with the protection of one person," collective singular, from body + guard (n.). Attested 1861 as "a soldier of the bodyguard."ETD bodyguard (n.).2


    U.S. aerospace corporation, founded 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington, as an airplane manufacturer. The family name is German.ETD Boeing.2


    in reference to a type of key-arrangement on a flute, 1845, from the surname of German musician Theobold Böhm (1794-1881), who invented the system in 1832. The surname is literally "Bohemian."ETD Boehm.2

    Boeotian (adj.)

    "ignorant, dull," 1590s, from Boeotia, the district around Thebes in ancient Greece (said to have been so called for its cattle pastures; from Greek bous "ox," from PIE root *gwou- "ox, bull, cow"), whose inhabitants were characterized as proverbially dull and countrified by their neighbors the Athenians, who thought Boeotia "a canton hopelessly behind the times, a slow canton, as the nimble Attics would say, a glorious climate for eels, but a bad air for brains" [B.L. Gildersleeve, "Pindar: The Olympian and Pythian Odes"]. The Boeotians presumably held reciprocal opinions, but their great writers, Plutarch and Pindar, though patriots, are full of praise for Athenian deeds and institutions.ETD Boeotian (adj.).2

    Boer (n.)

    "Dutch colonist in South Africa," 1824, from Dutch boer "farmer," from Middle Dutch, cognate with Old English gebur "dweller, farmer, peasant," and thus related to bower, German Bauer, and the final syllable of neighbor; from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow."ETD Boer (n.).2

    The Boer War (1899-1902), in which Great Britain defeated the South African Republic of Transvaal and Orange Free State, was technically the Second Boer War, there having been a brief preview 1880-1881.ETD Boer (n.).3

    boffin (n.)

    "person engaged in innovative research," especially in aviation, 1945; earlier "elderly naval officer" (1941), a word of uncertain origin but probably from one of the "Mr. Boffins" of English literature (as in "Our Mutual Friend").ETD boffin (n.).2

    boffo (adj.)

    strikingly successful, by 1961, show biz slang, probably echoic of a "hit."ETD boffo (adj.).2

    bog (v.)

    "sink (something or someone) in a bog," c. 1600, from bog (n.). The intransitive meaning "sink or stick in a bog" is from c. 1800; with down (adv.) by 1848, American English. Related: Bogged; bogging.ETD bog (v.).2

    bog (n.)

    "wet, soft, spongy ground with soil chiefly composed of decaying vegetable matter," c. 1500, from Gaelic and Irish bogach "bog," from adjective bog "soft, moist," from Proto-Celtic *buggo- "flexible" (from PIE root *bheug- "to bend").ETD bog (n.).2

    bogart (v.)

    drug slang, "to keep a joint in your mouth," dangling from the lip like Humphrey Bogart's cigarette in the old movies, instead of passing it on, by 1968, in "Don't Bogart That Joint" by Fraternity of Man. The word also was used 1960s with notions of "get something by intimidation, be a tough guy" (again with reference to the actor and the characters he typically played). Sixties slang, but the notion isn't new; in old drinking slang, Captain Cork was "a man slow in passing the bottle."ETD bogart (v.).2

    bogey (n.2)

    in golf, c. 1891, originally "number of strokes a good player is supposed to need for a given hole or course;" later, "score one over par" (1946); from the same source as bogey (n.1), on the notion of a "phantom" opponent, represented by the "ground score." The word was in vogue at the time in Britain through the popularity of a music-hall tune "Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bogey Man."ETD bogey (n.2).2

    Other early golfing sources give it an American origin. As a verb, attested by 1948.ETD bogey (n.2).3

    bogey (n.1)

    World War II aviator slang for "unidentified aircraft, presumably hostile," probably ultimately from bog/bogge, attested 16c.-17c., a dialectal variant of Middle English bugge "a frightening specter" (see bug (n.)).ETD bogey (n.1).2

    If so, bogey shares ancestry with, and might have arisen from, dialect words for "ghost, specter, the devil," such as bogeyman "haunting specter, object of fear" (16c.), boggart "specter that haunts a gloomy spot" (c. 1570, in Westmoreland, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire), and compare bogey (n.2). The earliest modern form appears to be Scottish bogle "ghost," attested from c. 1500 and popularized c. 1800 in English literature by Scott, Burns, etc.ETD bogey (n.1).3

    bogeyman (n.)

    "haunting specter, object of fear," 16c.; see bogey (n.1) + man (n.).ETD bogeyman (n.).2

    boggart (n.)

    also boggard, "specter, goblin, sprite," especially one supposed to haunt a particular spot, 1560s; see bug (n.).ETD boggart (n.).2

    boggy (adj.)

    "swampy, like a bog; full of bogs," 1580s, from bog (n.) + -y (2). Related: Bogginess.ETD boggy (adj.).2

    boggle (v.)

    1590s, "to start with fright (as a startled horse does), shy, take alarm," from Middle English bugge "specter" (among other things, supposed to scare horses at night); see bug (n.); also compare bogey (n.1), boggart.ETD boggle (v.).2

    The meaning " hesitate, stop as if afraid to proceed in fear of unforeseen difficulties" is from 1630s; the transitive sense of "confound, cause to hesitate" is from 1640s. As a noun from 1650s. Related: Boggled; boggling; boggler (from c. 1600 as "one who hesitates").ETD boggle (v.).3


    capital of Colombia, founded 1530s, the name is from Chibcha (an indigenous language) Bacata, native name of a settlement of the Muisca people that stood there when the Spanish arrived.ETD Bogota.2

    bog-trotter (n.)

    applied to the "wild Irish" from 1670s; see bog + trot (v.).ETD bog-trotter (n.).2

    bogus (adj.)

    "counterfeit, spurious, sham," 1839, from a noun (1838) meaning "counterfeit money, spurious coin," American English slang, apparently from a word applied (according to OED first in Ohio in 1827) to a counterfeiter's apparatus.ETD bogus (adj.).2

    Some trace this to tantrabobus, also tantrabogus, a late 18c. colloquial Vermont word for any odd-looking object (in later 19c. use "the devil"), which might be connected to tantarabobs, recorded as a Devonshire name for the devil. Others trace it to the same source as bogey (n.1). Related: Bogusly; bogusness.ETD bogus (adj.).3

    boh (interj.)

    see boo.ETD boh (interj.).2


    central European kingdom, mid-15c., Beeme, from French Boheme "Bohemia," from Latin Boiohaemum (Tacitus), from Boii, the Celtic people who settled in what is now Bohemia (and were driven from it by the Germanic Marcomans early 1c.; singular Boius, fem. Boia, perhaps literally "warriors") + Proto-Germanic *haimaz "home" (see home (n.)). Attested from 1861 in meaning "community of artists and social Bohemians" or in reference to a district where they live (see bohemian).ETD Bohemia.2

    bohemian (n.)

    "a gypsy of society; person (especially an artist) who lives a free and somewhat dissipated life, despising conventionalities and having little regard for social standards," 1848, from a transferred sense of French bohemién "a Bohemian; a Gypsy," from the country name (see Bohemia). The Middle English word for "a resident or native of Bohemia" was Bemener.ETD bohemian (n.).2

    The French used bohemién since 15c. to also mean "Gypsy." The Roma were wrongly believed to have come from there, perhaps because their first appearance in Western Europe may have been immediately from Bohemia, or because they were confused with the 15c. Bohemian Hussite heretics, who were driven from their country about that time.ETD bohemian (n.).3

    The transferred sense, in reference to unconventional living, is attested in French by 1834 and was popularized by Henri Murger's stories from the late 1840s later collected as "Scenes de la Vie de Boheme" (the basis of Puccini's "La Bohème"). It appears in English 1848 in Thackary's "Vanity Fair."ETD bohemian (n.).4

    Hence also the adjective, "unconventional, free from social restraints" (1848).ETD bohemian (n.).5

    Bohunk (n.)

    U.S. derogatory slang for "lower-class immigrant from Central or Eastern Europe," by 1899, probably from Bohemian (see Bohemia) + a distortion of Hungarian (see Hungary).ETD Bohunk (n.).2

    boy (n.)

    mid-13c., boie "servant, commoner, knave" (generally young and male); c. 1300, "rascal, ruffian, knave; urchin," mid-14c. as "male child before puberty" (possibly extended from the "urchin" sense). A word of unknown origin.ETD boy (n.).2

    Possibly from Old French embuie "one fettered," from Vulgar Latin *imboiare, from Latin boia "leg iron, yoke, leather collar," from Greek boeiai dorai "ox hides." (Words for "boy" double as "servant, attendant" across the Indo-European map — compare Italian ragazzo, French garçon, Greek pais, Middle English knave, Old Church Slavonic otroku — and often it is difficult to say which meaning came first.)ETD boy (n.).3

    But it also appears to be identical with East Frisian boi "young gentleman," and perhaps with Dutch boef "knave," from Middle Dutch boeve, perhaps from Middle Low German buobe. This suggests a gradational relationship to babe. Another conjecture:ETD boy (n.).4

    Used slightingly of young men in Middle English, also in familiar or contemptuous use of criminal toughs or men in the armed services. In some local uses "a man," without reference to age (OED lists "in Cornwall, in Ireland, in the far West of the U.S."). The meaning "male negro slave or Asian personal servant of any age" attested from c. 1600.ETD boy (n.).5

    Extended form boyo is attested from 1870. Emphatic exclamation oh, boy is attested by 1917. Boy-meets-girl "typical of a conventional romance" is from 1945; the phrase itself is from 1934 as a dramatic formula. Boy-crazy "eager to associate with males" is from 1923.ETD boy (n.).6

    boil (v.)

    early 13c. (intransitive) "to bubble up, be in a state of ebullition," especially from heat, from Old French bolir "boil, bubble up, ferment, gush" (12c., Modern French bouillir), from Latin bullire "to bubble, seethe," from PIE *beu- "to swell" (see bull (n.2)). The native word is seethe. The figurative sense, of passions, feelings, etc., "be in an agitated state" is from 1640s.ETD boil (v.).2

    The transitive sense "put into a boiling condition, cause to boil" is from early 14c. The noun is from mid-15c. as "an act of boiling," 1813 as "state of boiling." Related: Boiled; boiling. Boiling point "temperature at which a liquid is converted into vapor" is recorded from 1773.ETD boil (v.).3

    boil (n.)

    "hard tumor," altered from Middle English bile (Kentish bele), perhaps by association with the verb; from Old English byl, byle "boil, carbuncle," from West Germanic *buljon- "swelling" (source also of Old Frisian bele, Old High German bulia, German Beule). Perhaps ultimately from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell," or from *beu- "to grow, swell" (see bull (n.2); also compare boast (n.)). Compare Old Irish bolach "pustule," Gothic ufbauljan "to puff up," Icelandic beyla "hump."ETD boil (n.).2

    boiler (n.)

    1540s, "person who boils," agent noun from boil (v.). The meaning "vessel for boiling" is from 1725; the specific sense of "strong metallic structure in which steam is generated for driving engines" is from 1757.ETD boiler (n.).2

    boilermaker (n.)

    also boiler-maker, "a maker of boilers for engines," 1814, from boiler (n.) + maker. The meaning "shot of whiskey with a glass of beer" is short for boilermaker's delight (1910), a term for strong cheap whiskey, so called in jest from the notion that it also would clean the scales from the interior of a boiler.ETD boilermaker (n.).2

    boilerplate (n.)

    1831, "iron rolled in large, flat plates for use in making steam boilers," from boiler + plate (n.). In newspaper (and now information technology) slang, the sense of "unit of writing that can be used over and over without change" is attested by 1887. The connecting notion probably is the permanence of the prepared plate compared to set type: From the 1870s to the 1950s, publicity items were cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to country newspapers as filler. An early provider was the American Press Association (1882). The largest supplier later was Western Newspaper Union.ETD boilerplate (n.).2

    An older name for it was plate-matter "type cast in a number of stereotype plates for insertion in different newspapers" (1878). Plate (n.) is attested by 1824 in printing as "a cast of a page of composed movable types."ETD boilerplate (n.).3


    "have sex with" (v.); "the sex act" (n.), slang by c. 2000, perhaps a bouncier form of bonk in its popular venery sense. Related: Boinked; boinking.ETD boink.2


    city in Idaho, U.S., from French-Canadian boisé, literally "wooded," from French bois "wood," which (with Italian bosco, Spanish bosque, Medieval Latin boscus) apparently is borrowed from the Germanic root of bush (n.). Medieval Latin boscus was used especially of "woodland pasture."ETD Boise.2

    boisterous (adj.)

    late 15c., boistreous, "rough, coarse," an unexplained alteration of Middle English boistous (c. 1300) "rough, coarse, clumsy, violent," which itself is of unknown origin, perhaps from Anglo-French bustous "rough (road)," itself perhaps from Old French boisteos "curved, lame; uneven, rough" (Modern French boiteux), itself of obscure origin. Another guess traces it via Celtic to Latin bestia.ETD boisterous (adj.).2

    Of persons, "turbulent, clamorous," 1560s; OED says originally "in a distinctly bad sense," but by 1680s gradually passing into "abounding in rough but good-natured activity bordering upon excess." Related: Boisterously; boisterousness.ETD boisterous (adj.).3

    bok choy (n.)

    also pak choi, type of Chinese cabbage, by 1967, from Cantonese, literally "white vegetable;" earlier Englished as pak-tsae (1847), with a variety of spellings in between.ETD bok choy (n.).2

    bold (adj.)

    Middle English bold, from Old English beald (West Saxon), bald (Anglian) "stout-hearted, brave, confident, strong," from Proto-Germanic *balthaz (source also of Old High German bald "bold, swift," in names such as Archibald, Leopold, Theobald; Gothic balþei "boldness;" Old Norse ballr "frightful, dangerous"), perhaps (Watkins) from PIE *bhol-to-, suffixed form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD bold (adj.).2

    The meaning "requiring or exhibiting courage" is from mid-13c. Also in a bad sense, "audacious, presumptuous, overstepping usual bounds" (c. 1200). From 1670s as "standing out to view, striking the eye." Of flavors (coffee, etc.) from 1829.ETD bold (adj.).3

    The noun meaning "those who are bold" is from c. 1300 in both admiring and disparaging senses. Old French and Provençal baut "bold," Italian baldo "bold, daring, fearless" are Germanic loan-words. Related: Boldly; boldness.ETD bold (adj.).4

    bold-face (n.)

    also boldface, in typography, "having a thick or fat face," 1845, from bold (adj.) + face (n.). In reference to types, bold (adj.) is attested from 1790, perhaps from its secondary sense "easily visible, striking to the eye."ETD bold-face (n.).2

    bole (n.)

    "body or trunk of a tree," early 14c., from Old Norse bolr "tree trunk," from Proto-Germanic *bulas (source also of Middle Dutch bolle "trunk of a tree"), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD bole (n.).2

    bolero (n.)

    kind of Spanish dance in 3/4 time, "intended to represent the course of love from extreme shyness to extreme passion" [Century Dictionary], 1787, from Spanish, probably from bola "ball" (and perhaps with reference to "whirling motion"), from Latin bulla "round swelling, knob" (see bull (n.2)). In reference to a type of short jacket (worn in Spain by men, by women elsewhere), it is recorded in English by 1864.ETD bolero (n.).2


    South American republic, founded 1825, named for Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), statesman and soldier.ETD Bolivia.2

    boll (n.)

    Middle English bolle, from Old English bolla "bowl, cup, pot, round vessel for containing liquids," merged from 13c. with Middle Dutch bolle "round object," both from Proto-Germanic *bul-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." Influenced in meaning by Latin bulla "bubble, ball" (see bull (n.2)).ETD boll (n.).2

    The sense was extended c. 1500 to "round seed pod of flax or cotton." Boll weevil, which damages cotton bolls, is so called from 1895, American English.ETD boll (n.).3

    A case of entomology meddling in etymology.ETD boll (n.).4

    bollard (n.)

    1844, originally a strong, upright post along a dock for fixing hawsers for mooring ships; since 1948, usually a traffic control device; probably from bole + suffix -ard.ETD bollard (n.).2

    bollix (v.)

    "bungle, make a mess of," 1937, a respelling (perhaps euphemistic) of bollocks, from Old English beallucas "testicles," from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." The sense of it probably comes from the 20c. British use of bollocks as an interjection, "nonsense!" Related: Bollixed; bollixing.ETD bollix (v.).2

    bollocks (n.)

    "testicles," 1744, variant of ballocks, from Old English beallucas "testicles," from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." In British slang, as an ejaculation, "nonsense!" from 1919.ETD bollocks (n.).2

    bollock (n.)

    "testicle," singular of bollocks (q.v.).ETD bollock (n.).2


    "film industry based in Mumbai, India," 1977, from Bombay (old name of Mumbai) + Hollywood.ETD Bollywood.2

    Bolo (n.)

    "traitor," 1917, from Paul Bolo, French adventurer shot for treason April 17, 1918; used in World War I with reference to pacifist propagandists; later somewhat assimilated to Bolshevik (q.v.).ETD Bolo (n.).2


    city in north-central Italy, famous during the Middle Ages for its university, 16c. for its painters, from Latin Bononia, which represents either Gaulish bona "foundation, fortress," or Boii, the name of the Gaulish people who occupied the region 4c. B.C.E. As a large type of sausage first made there, 1850, from bologna sausage (1590s). Also see baloney.ETD Bologna.2

    Bolognese (adj.)

    1756, "pertaining to Bologna" (q.v.); also as a noun, "native or inhabitant of Bologna," 1717, from Italian Bolognese.ETD Bolognese (adj.).2

    boloney (n.)

    1907, variant of bologna in the sausage sense; also see baloney.ETD boloney (n.).2

    Bolshevik (n.)

    "Russian radical socialist of the revolutionary period," 1917, from Russian bol'shevik (plural bol'sheviki), from bol'shiy "greater," comparative of adjective bol'shoy "big, great" (as in Bolshoi Ballet), from Old Church Slavonic boljiji "larger," from PIE root *bel- "strong" (source also of Sanskrit balam "strength, force," Greek beltion "better," Phrygian balaios "big, fast," Old Irish odbal "strong," Welsh balch "proud;" Middle Dutch, Low German, Frisian pal "strong, firm").ETD Bolshevik (n.).2

    The faction of the Russian Social Democratic Worker's Party after a split in 1903 that was either "larger" or "more extreme" (or both) than the Mensheviks (from Russian men'shij "less"); after they seized power in 1917, the name was applied generally in English to Russian communists, then also to anyone opposed to an existing order or social system. Bolshevism is recorded from 1917.ETD Bolshevik (n.).3

    bolster (n.)

    Old English bolster "bolster, cushion, something stuffed so that it swells up," especially "a long, stuffed pillow," from Proto-Germanic *bolkhstraz (source also of Old Norse bolstr, Danish, Swedish, Dutch bolster, German polster), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell," extended form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." Applied since 15c. to various parts which support others.ETD bolster (n.).2

    bolster (v.)

    mid-15c. (implied in bolstered), "prop up; make to bulge" (originally of a woman's breasts), from bolster (n.). The figurative sense of "uphold; maintain" a weak or falling cause or object" is from c. 1500, on the notion of "to support with a bolster, prop up." Formerly often negative, implying an unworthy cause or object. Related: Bolstering.ETD bolster (v.).2

    bolt (n.)

    Old English bolt "short, stout arrow with a heavy head;" also "crossbow for throwing bolts," from Proto-Germanic *bultas (source also of Old Norse bolti, Danish bolt, Dutch bout, German Bolzen), perhaps originally "arrow, missile," and from PIE *bheld- "to knock, strike" (source also of Lithuanian beldžiu "I knock," baldas "pole for striking").ETD bolt (n.).2

    Applied since Middle English to other short metal rods (especially those with knobbed ends): the meanings "stout pin for fastening objects together" and "part of a lock which springs out" are both from c. 1400. A bolt of canvas (c. 1400) was so called for its shape.ETD bolt (n.).3

    The meaning "sliding metal rod that thrusts the cartridge into the chamber of a firearm" is from 1859. From the notion of an arrow's flight comes the bolt of lightning (1530s) and the sense of "a sudden spring or start" (1540s). Adverbial phrase bolt upright (like a bolt or arrow) is from late 14c.ETD bolt (n.).4

    bolt (v.)

    verbs from bolt (n.) in its various senses (especially "a missile" and "a fastening"); from a crossbow arrow's quick flight comes the meaning "spring, make a quick start" (early 13c.). Via the notion of fleeing game or runaway horses, this came to mean "leave suddenly" (1610s). The meaning "gulp down food" is from 1794. The meaning "secure by means of a bolt" is from 1580s. Related: Bolted; bolting.ETD bolt (v.).2

    bomb (n.)

    "explosive projectile," originally consisting of a hollow ball or shell filled with explosive material, 1580s, from French bombe, from Italian bomba, probably from Latin bombus "a deep, hollow noise; a buzzing or booming sound," from Greek bombos "deep and hollow sound," echoic. Thus probably so called for the sound it makes.ETD bomb (n.).2

    Originally of mortar shells, etc.; modern sense of "explosive device placed by hand or dropped from airplane" is from 1909. The meaning "old car" is from 1953. The meaning "success" is from 1954 (late 1990s slang the bomb "the best" probably is a fresh formation); opposite sense of "a failure" is from 1961. The bomb "the atomic bomb" is from 1945. Compare shell (n.).ETD bomb (n.).3

    bombing (n.)

    "an attack with bombs," 1610s, verbal noun from bomb (v.).ETD bombing (n.).2

    bomb (v.)

    1680s, "fire bombs at, attack with bombs" (marked archaic in Century Dictionary, 1889, but quite revived in 20c.), from bomb (n.). The slang meaning "fail" is attested from 1963; that of "move or travel quickly" is from 1966. Related: Bombed; bombing. Slang bombed "drunk" is attested by 1956.ETD bomb (v.).2


    city in western India, from Portuguese, and popularly explained as Portuguese bom bahia "good bay," but that seems folk etymology (for one, the adjective is masculine and the noun is feminine), and the more likely candidate is the local Mumbadevi "Goddess Mumba," a Hindu deity worshipped there. The city's name officially changed to Mumbai in 1995.ETD Bombay.2

    bombard (n.)

    early 15c., "catapult, military engine for throwing large stones" ("The name generally given in Europe to the cannon during the 1st century of its use," says Century Dictionary), from Old French bombarde "mortar, catapult" (14c.), from bombe (see bomb (n.)). The same word, from the same source, was used in English and French late 14c. in reference to the bass shawm, a low-pitched bassoon-like musical instrument, preserving the "buzzing" sense in the Latin.ETD bombard (n.).2

    bombard (v.)

    1590s, "to fire heavy guns," from French bombarder, from bombarde "mortar, catapult" (see bombard (n.)). The meaning "attack with heavy ordnance" is from 1680s. The figurative sense "assail persistently" is by 1765. Related: Bombarded; bombarding.ETD bombard (v.).2

    bombardment (n.)

    "continuous attack with shot and shell," 1702, from bombard (v.) + -ment.ETD bombardment (n.).2

    bombardier (n.)

    1550s, "soldier in charge of a cannon," from French bombardier, from bombard (see bombard (n.)). In 17c.-18c. of soldiers who loaded shells, fixed fuses, and generally manned mortars and howitzers; meaning "one who aims the bombs in an aircraft" is attested 1932, American English.ETD bombardier (n.).2

    bombast (n.)

    1570s, "cotton padding," corrupted from earlier bombace "raw cotton" (1550s), from Old French bombace "cotton, cotton wadding," from Late Latin bombacem, accusative of bombax "cotton, 'linteorum aut aliae quaevis quisquiliae,' " a corruption and transferred use of Latin bombyx "silk," from Greek bombyx "silk, silkworm" (which also came to mean "cotton" in Medieval Greek), from some oriental word, perhaps related to Iranian pambak (modern panba) or Armenian bambok, perhaps ultimately from a PIE root meaning "to twist, wind."ETD bombast (n.).2

    Also from the same source are Swedish bomull, Danish bomuld "cotton," and, via Turkish forms, Modern Greek mpampaki, Rumanian bumbac, Serbo-Croatian pamuk. German baumwolle "cotton" probably is from the Latin word but altered by folk-etymology to look like "tree wool." Polish bawełna, Lithuanian bovelna are partial translations from German.ETD bombast (n.).3

    From stuffing and padding for clothes or upholstery, meaning extended to "pompous, empty speech" (1580s).ETD bombast (n.).4

    bombastic (adj.)

    1704, "inflated," from bombast + -ic. The meaning "given to bombastic language, characterized by bombast" is from 1727. Related: Bombastical (1640s).ETD bombastic (adj.).2

    bombazine (n.)

    (also bombasine, bambazine), 1550s, "raw cotton;" 1570s, "twilled or corded dress material woven of silk and wool, always inexpensive and of the same color," from French bombasin (14c.) "cotton cloth," from Medieval Latin bombacinium "silk texture," from Late Latin bombycinium, neuter of bombycinius "silken," from bombyx "silk, silkworm," from Greek bombyx (see bombast). The post-classical transfer of the word from "silk" to "cotton" may reflect the perceived "silk-like" nature of the fabric, or a waning of familiarity with genuine silk in the European Dark Ages, but compare bombast.ETD bombazine (n.).2

    bomber (n.)

    "one who throws bombs," 1915, agent noun from bomb (v.). Used in the U.S. Civil War (1863) in reference to mortar-mounted flat-bottomed river-boats in the Vicksburg campaign. As a type of military aircraft, from 1917.ETD bomber (n.).2

    bombination (n.)

    "buzz, humming noise," 1816, noun of action from bombinate.ETD bombination (n.).2

    bombinate (v.)

    "make a buzzing noise," 1865, from Latin bombinare, corrupted from bombitare "to hum, buzz," from bombus "a deep, hollow sound; hum, buzz," echoic. Also sometimes bombilate. Related: Bombinated; bombinating.ETD bombinate (v.).2

    bomb-proof (adj.)

    "strong enough to resist the impact and explosive force of bombs or shells striking on the outside" [Century Dictionary], 1702, from bomb (n.) + proof (n.). As a noun, "underground structure strong enough to resist the impact and explosive force of bombs," 1755. In the U.S. Civil War it was a contemptuous term for men not exposed to the dangers of war.ETD bomb-proof (adj.).2

    bombshell (n.)

    also bomb-shell, 1708, "mortar-thrown shell which explodes upon falling," from bomb (n.) + shell (n.).ETD bombshell (n.).2

    The figurative sense of "shattering or devastating thing or event" is attested by 1859. In reference to a pretty woman "of startling vitality or physique" [OED], especially a blonde, it is attested by 1942. "Bombshell" as title of a movie starring blond U.S. actress Jean Harlow (1911-1937) is from 1933; it was believed to have been loosely based on the life of screen star Clara Bow.ETD bombshell (n.).3

    bombyx (n.)

    "the silkworm," late 14c., from Latin, from Greek (see bombast).ETD bombyx (n.).2

    bon (adj.)

    French, literally "good" (adj.), from Latin bonus "good" (see bonus). It has crossed the Channel in phrases such as bon appétit, literally "good appetite" (1860); bon-ton "good style" (1744); bon mot (1735), etc. Compare boon, bonhomie.ETD bon (adj.).2

    bona fides (n.)

    "good faith, fair dealing, freedom from intent to deceive," by 1838, English pluralization of bona fide, as though the Latin phrase were a noun. The sense of "guarantees of good faith" is by 1944. The opposite is mala fides "bad faith, intent to deceive."ETD bona fides (n.).2


    see bona fide.ETD bonafide.2

    bona fide

    1540s, "genuinely, with sincerity," Latin, literally "in or with good faith," ablative of bona fides "good faith" (see faith). Originally in English an adverb, later (18c.) also an adjective, "acting or done in good faith." The opposite is mala fide.ETD bona fide.2

    bonanza (n.)

    1844, western U.S. (1842 as a Mexican word in English), from American Spanish bonanza "a rich lode," originally "fair weather at sea, prosperity," from Vulgar Latin *bonacia, from Latin bonus "good" (see bonus). The Spanish word was transferred to mines, then, in English, to farms, then used generally for "a profitable thing."ETD bonanza (n.).2


    in reference to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Corsican-born French military leader and dictator; the surname is the French form of Italian Buonaparte, from buona "good" (from Latin bonus "good;" see bonus) + parte "part, share, portion" (from Latin partem "a part, piece, a share, a division," from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot"). Related: Bonapartist; Bonapartism.ETD Bonaparte.2

    bona-roba (n.)

    "a showy wanton" [Johnson], 1590s, from Italian buonaroba "as we say good stuffe, that is a good wholesome plum-cheeked wench" [Florio], literally "fine gown," from buona "good" (from Latin bonus "good;" see bonus) + roba "robe, dress, stuff, gear," from a Germanic source (see robe (n.)).ETD bona-roba (n.).2

    bonbon (n.)

    also bon-bon, "sugar confection," 1796, from French bonbon (17c.), childish reduplication of bon "good," from Latin bonus "good" (see bonus). Hence, bonbonniere (1818) "a box for sweets."ETD bonbon (n.).2

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