bush·​man ˈbu̇sh-mən How to pronounce bushman (audio)
plural bushmen
Bushman sometimes offensive; see usage paragraph below
: a member of any of the indigenous and traditionally hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa who are considered the oldest inhabitants of the region : san sense 1
Several dozen Bushmen who had been expelled from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have returned there under a landmark court ruling giving the traditional hunter-gatherers rights to land they and their ancestors occupied for thousands of years.Craig Timberg
In Southern Africa, there are perhaps 100,000 indigenous people commonly referred to as Bushmen or San—terms typically used by outsiders and, though sometimes considered demeaning, often by the people themselves.Barry Bearak
chiefly Australia : a person who lives in the bush
Usage of Bushman

Bushman is sometimes avoided as potentially offensive to the people to whom it refers, with San often being used instead. However, usage evidence indicates that not all of these people find Bushman offensive and that they sometimes use it themselves. It continues in widespread use.

Word History


bush entry 1 + man entry 1; in sense 1 after early Afrikaans bossieman, bossiesman, boschjesman, bosjesman

First Known Use

1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of bushman was in 1785

Dictionary Entries Near bushman

Cite this Entry

“Bushman.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bushman. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


sometimes offensive
: a member of a group of peoples of southern Africa who traditionally live by hunting and foraging
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