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noun (1)

bul·​ly ˈbu̇-lē How to pronounce bully (audio)
plural bullies
: a blustering, browbeating person
especially : one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable
tormented by the neighborhood bully
: pimp
: a hired ruffian
: a fine chap


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bullied; bullying

transitive verb

: to treat (someone) in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion : to act like a bully toward
bullied her younger brother
: to cause (someone) to do something by means of force or coercion
was bullied into accepting their offer

intransitive verb

: to use language or behavior that is cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive


3 of 4


: excellent
often used in interjectional expressions
bully for you
: resembling or characteristic of a bully
his bully tricks


4 of 4

noun (2)

food : pickled or canned usually corned beef

Did you know?

Bully Wasn't Always Negative

The earliest meaning of English bully was “sweetheart.” The word was probably borrowed from Dutch boel, “lover.” Later bully was used for anyone who seemed a good fellow, then for a blustering daredevil. Today, a bully is usually one whose claims to strength and courage are based on the intimidation of those who are weaker.

Choose the Right Synonym for bully

intimidate, cow, bulldoze, bully, browbeat mean to frighten into submission.

intimidate implies inducing fear or a sense of inferiority into another.

intimidated by so many other bright freshmen

cow implies reduction to a state where the spirit is broken or all courage is lost.

not at all cowed by the odds against making it in show business

bulldoze implies an intimidating or an overcoming of resistance usually by urgings, demands, or threats.

bulldozed the city council into approving the plan

bully implies intimidation through threats, insults, or aggressive behavior.

bullied into giving up their lunch money

browbeat implies a cowing through arrogant, scornful, or contemptuous treatment.

browbeat the witness into a contradiction

Examples of bully in a Sentence

Verb He bullied his younger brothers. the kindergarten teacher explained why it was wrong to bully classmates Adjective that's a bully idea for reviving the town's retail center
Recent Examples on the Web
The rescue canine, a Chihuahua, wiener dog and bully mix, won’t eat until he’s kissed on the forehead. Erin Clements, Peoplemag, 17 Mar. 2024 There’s a sense of all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small being worthy of life, despite what the film’s resident bigots and bullies might think. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 15 Mar. 2024 Judge says Kari Lake conceded defamation suit; discovery could still proceed on damages Fountain Hills sanctions 'bully' council member, orders him to get a chaperone GOP wants to scrap Arizona early voting. The Arizona Republic, 30 Mar. 2024 Instead of standing up against international bullies, the U.S. abstained, allowing a despicable resolution to pass. The Editors, National Review, 26 Mar. 2024 Alex’s sixty-minute set consisted of witty rants on the quotidian vexations of life, such as squabbles with Internet bullies and an awkward first date. Chang Che, The New Yorker, 26 Mar. 2024 Instead, Juarez said, her daughter faced bullies and threats at her new school’s campus. Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 2024 The women continued to discuss why Madina and Sydney, 28, deemed Maria a bully. Dana Rose Falcone, Peoplemag, 19 Mar. 2024 Green guarded James slightly more down the stretch, but James still played bully ball, constantly attacking the rim and either finishing or earning free throws. Danny Emerman, The Mercury News, 17 Mar. 2024
As a buyer, knowing how intimidating that can be and how bullying that culture can be of not just what is natural wine is but what is cool wine, what is good wine. Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen, Robb Report, 7 Apr. 2024 Nixon, 32, of Southfield, faced relentless bullying over her weight and battled depression and anxiety during childhood and adolescence. Audrey Richardson and Aurora Sousanis, USA TODAY, 6 Apr. 2024 The allegations that California Forever tried to bully longtime residents out of their land led to a series of contentious town hall meetings in which locals openly yelled at Jan Sramek, the project’s CEO. Lucas Ropek / Gizmodo, Quartz, 2 Apr. 2024 Finally Shaylee explained that she had been bullied for being new at Manual Arts High School and had gotten into a fight at school. Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 2024 In the courtroom, lawyers reviewed the type of harassment and bullying that students at school testified to at the time. Karina Elwood, Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2024 Nigel was continuously bullied by his classmates both online and in-person for being gay – in some instances, even in front of faculty members, according to the civil lawsuit, filed in 2021. Devon M. Sayers, CNN, 29 Mar. 2024 Benedict’s death has drawn international attention and ignited additional backlash from LGBTQ advocates, some of whom believe that the bullying Benedict faced is connected to the dozens of state bills targeting the community in recent years in Oklahoma and other states. Jo Yurcaba, NBC News, 27 Mar. 2024 According to the lawsuit, the student was bullied by other kids for having gay parents and Kalumbula did not intervene. Jennifer Rodriguez, Kansas City Star, 26 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bully.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1), Verb, and Adjective

probably from Middle Dutch boele lover; akin to Middle Low German bōle lover, Middle High German buole

Noun (2)

probably modification of French (bœuf) boulli boiled beef

First Known Use

Noun (1)

circa 1548, in the meaning defined at sense 3a


1685, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1851, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1753, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bully was circa 1548

Dictionary Entries Near bully

Cite this Entry

“Bully.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bully. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
bul·​ly ˈbu̇l-ē How to pronounce bully (audio)
plural bullies
: a person who purposely hurts, intimidates, threatens, or ridicules another usually more vulnerable person especially repeatedly


2 of 2 verb
bullied; bullying
: to act like a bully toward

More from Merriam-Webster on bully

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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