Thursday, 27 December 2012

Entry: bully (adj.)

In context: "'Bully.'"

Definition: as an exclamation, esp. in phrase ‘Bully for you!’ = bravo! well done!

also, interestingly:

A term of endearment and familiarity, orig. applied to either sex: sweetheart, darling. Later applied to men only, implying friendly admiration: good friend, fine fellow, ‘gallant’. Often prefixed as a sort of title to the name or designation of the person addressed, as in Shakespeare, ‘bully Bottom’, ‘bully doctor’. Obs. exc. arch.

Other: You know this is going to be an etymology worth reading:

Etymology obscure: possibly < Dutch boel   ‘lover (of either sex)’, also ‘brother’ (Verwijs & Verdam); compare Middle High German buole  , modern German buhle   ‘lover’, earlier also ‘friend, kinsman’. Bailey 1721 has boolie   ‘beloved’ as an ‘old word’. Bully   can hardly be identical with Scots billy n.1 3, brother, but the dialect sense 2   seems to have been influenced by that word. There does not appear to be sufficient reason for supposing that the senses under branch II.   are of distinct etymology: the sense of ‘hired ruffian’ may be a development of that of ‘fine fellow, gallant’ (compare bravo  ); or the notion of ‘lover’ may have given rise to that of ‘protector of a prostitute’, and this to the more general sense. In the popular etymological consciousness the word is perhaps now associated with bull n.1; compare bullock

SNOOT score: 2

Page: 598

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

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