\ ˈbōs \
plural -s

Definition of boce

: a brightly colored European fish (Box vulgaris) of the family Sparidae having a compressed body

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

History and Etymology for boce

borrowed from Latin bōca, borrowed from Greek, from the stem of bōk,- bôx, contracted form of bóāx, bóēx, perhaps a derivative of boḗ “cry, shout,” probably of onomatopoeic origin

Note: Greek bôx is found in Aristotle’s Historia Animalium (610b). This and other forms (as uncontracted bóāx, bóēx), culled from earlier Greek authors, are cited by Athenaeus (2nd/3rd century a.d.) in his Deipnosophistae. According to Athenaeus, the bôx was named for its cry (Greek boḗ “cry, shout”), parallel, presumably, to English grunt, grunter applied to various fish that are thought to make noise when they are taken from the water. Athenaeus also cites Aristophanes of Byzantium’s opinion that bôx, bóāx, etc., were erroneous, the correct form being bóōps (“ … for though being small, it has large eyes; it must be then that the bóōps has the eyes of an ox [Greek boôpis, literally, “ox-eyed”]”). All these readings may reflect folk etymologizing of a word of older, unknown origin.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about boce

Statistics for boce

Cite this Entry

“Boce.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

Comments on boce

What made you want to look up boce? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!