• Very good.
  • Jovial and blustering.



  • From 1530, as a term of endearment, probably a diminutive (-y) of Dutch boel ("lover; brother"), from Middle Dutch boel, boele, from Old Dutch *buolo, from Proto-Germanic *bōlô (compare Middle Low German bôle ("brother"), Middle High German buole ("brother; close relative; close relation") (whence Buhle), Old English Bōla, Bōlla, diminutive of expressive *bō-. 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 or via the ‘prostitute's minder’ sense. The positive senses are dated, but survive in phrases such as bully pulpit.

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