8 Wintry Words to Defrost Your Vocabulary


[boi] /bɔɪ/
a male child, from birth to full growth, especially one less than 18 years of age.
a young man who lacks maturity, judgment, etc.
Informal. a grown man, especially when referred to familiarly:
He liked to play poker with the boys.
a son:
Sam's oldest boy is helping him in the business.
a male who is from or native to a given place.
boys, (used with a singular or plural verb)
  1. a range of sizes from 8 to 20 in garments made for boys.
  2. a garment in this size range.
  3. the department or section of a store where these garments are sold.
boys, military personnel, especially combat soldiers:
Support the boys overseas.
Disparaging and Offensive. a term used to refer to or address a man considered by the speaker to be inferior in ethnicity, nationality, or occupational status.
a young male servant; page.
Offensive. (in India, China, Japan, etc.) a native male servant, working as a butler, waiter, houseboy, etc.
Nautical. an apprentice seaman or fisherman.
interjection, Also, oh, boy
an exclamation of wonder, approval, etc., or of displeasure or contempt.
1250-1300; Middle English boy(e), perhaps after Old English Bōia man's name; cognate with Frisian boi young man; akin to Old English bōfa, Old Norse bōfi, Old High German Buobo man's name (German Bube knave, (dial.) boy, lad)
Can be confused
boy, buoy.
Usage note
During the slavery and Jim Crow eras, white southerners would use the term boy to refer to or address a black adult male, implying that black people were inferior. In the meaning “native male servant,” boy was originally used in colonial territories and in the ports of China, Japan, etc., through which trade with foreign countries was permitted by special treaty. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for boys
  • Some middle-school boys dream of playing professional baseball.
  • He went back to the house with one of the boys, but the crows stayed away.
  • They plan on looking at postmortem brain tissue from mothers of boys.
  • boys play among roosters and the debris of boxing-gloves, tape, and rubber tires.
  • Most of the boys' names are also unremarkable across race.
  • When she could not appear, her small boys were proxies for her.
  • Even in her teenage boys' bedrooms, not a thing is out of place.
  • Sheltering from a rainstorm in an abandoned factory, the boys encounter a trio of tramps.
  • We boys used to beg the butcher for old sheep's heads or smelly pieces of meaty bone.
  • Juggling the roles of chef and musician is nothing new for the boys in this band.
British Dictionary definitions for boys


a male child; lad; youth
a man regarded as immature or inexperienced: he's just a boy when it comes to dealing with women
See old boy
(informal) a group of men, esp a group of friends
generally (derogatory) (esp in former colonial territories) a Black person or native male servant of any age
(Austral) a jockey or apprentice
short for boyfriend
boys will be boys, youthful indiscretion or exuberance must be expected and tolerated
(informal) jobs for the boys, appointment of one's supporters to posts, without reference to their qualifications or ability
(Irish, informal) the boy, the right tool for a particular task: that's the boy to cut it
an exclamation of surprise, pleasure, contempt, etc: boy, is he going to be sorry!
Word Origin
C13 (in the sense: male servant; C14: young male): of uncertain origin; perhaps from Anglo-French abuié fettered (unattested), from Latin boia fetter
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
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Word Origin and History for boys



mid-13c., boie "servant, commoner, knave, boy," of unknown origin. 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 -- e.g. Italian ragazzo, French garçon, Greek pais, Middle English knave, Old Church Slavonic otroku -- and often it is difficult to say which meaning came first.)

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. For a different conjecture:

In Old English, only the proper name Boia has been recorded. ME boi meant 'churl, servant' and (rarely) 'devil.' In texts, the meaning 'male child' does not antedate 1400. ModE boy looks like a semantic blend of an onomatopoeic word for an evil spirit (*boi) and a baby word for 'brother' (*bo). [Liberman]

A noticable number of the modern words for 'boy', 'girl', and 'child' were originally colloquial nicknames, derogatory or whimsical, in part endearing, and finally commonplace. These, as is natural, are of the most diverse, and in part obscure, origin. [Buck]
Used slightingly of young men in Middle English; meaning "male negro slave or Asian personal servant of any age" attested from c.1600. Exclamation oh, boy attested from 1892.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for boys

bow out

verb phrase

To depart, voluntarily and often gracefully: We wanted her to take the role, but she bowed out (1940s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with boys


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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