1 of 4

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


2 of 4


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

Noun (1) the school has a procedure for students who want to report problems with bullies the local loan shark and his bullies have ways of making people pay up 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
Award-winning magician Tony Brent uses comedy, magic, juggling and more to teach children about coping with bullies. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 1 July 2024 In his first debate against Biden in 2020, the then-president behaved like a disruptive bully and promptly dropped four points in the polls. Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2024
Being excluded in a very public way is one of the hallmarks of a clique and can be difficult for kids to cope with, especially if they are also being bullied or teased. Sherri Gordon, Parents, 3 July 2024 Preston said the hotline also gets calls from parents and teachers unsure what their rights are, and that of the students who called, more than 80% report increased instances of being bullied at school since the parental notification policies were instated. Jenavieve Hatch, Sacramento Bee, 27 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for bully 

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 13 Jul. 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
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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