noun (1)
bul·​ly | \ ˈbu̇-lē How to pronounce bully (audio) , ˈbə- \
plural bullies

Definition of bully

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : 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
b : pimp
2 : a hired ruffian
3 archaic
b : a fine chap


bullied; bullying

Definition of bully (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to treat (someone) in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion : to act like a bully toward bullied her younger brother
2 : 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



Definition of bully (Entry 3 of 4)

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


noun (2)

Definition of bully (Entry 4 of 4)

food : pickled or canned usually corned beef

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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

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.

Examples of bully in a Sentence

Verb He bullied his younger brothers. children who had been bullied by their father since infancy Adjective that's a bully idea for reviving the town's retail center
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First Known Use of bully

Noun (1)

1538, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1693, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1844, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1753, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bully

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

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Learn More about bully

Statistics for bully

Cite this Entry

“Bully.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bully. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for bully



English Language Learners Definition of bully

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone)
: to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force



English Language Learners Definition of bully (Entry 2 of 2)

informal used in phrases like bully for you to express approval or praise especially when the approval or praise is not sincere


bul·​ly | \ ˈbu̇-lē How to pronounce bully (audio) \
plural bullies

Kids Definition of bully

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who teases, hurts, or threatens smaller or weaker persons


bullied; bullying

Kids Definition of bully (Entry 2 of 2)

: to tease, hurt, or threaten a smaller or weaker person : to act like a bully toward

More from Merriam-Webster on bully

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bully

Nglish: Translation of bully for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bully for Arabic Speakers

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