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

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
Trump comes off as a childish bully who needs anger management. George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 24 Sep. 2023 The Justice Department argues in a federal antitrust suit that Google is a dominant tech company that has abused its market power to bully industry partners, protect its monopoly and thwart competition. Steve Lohr, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2023 The best way to stop a bully is to stick up to them. Annie Lane, oregonlive, 10 Sep. 2023 Sagittarius November 22-December 21 Being a bully about your beliefs is possible now. Tarot Astrologers, Chicago Tribune, 21 Aug. 2023 The first bully then takes one more shot at Diego, who is on the ground, before both assailants run away. Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2023 In the early 2000s, Regina George in Mean Girls personified the calculating bully who used verbal abuse and social isolation to harass other students. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 5 Sep. 2023 These include the potential for constant distraction, the perils of social media, exposure to predators, bullies, and many other issues their growing brains aren’t yet equipped to manage in a healthy way. Jennifer Jolly, USA TODAY, 3 Sep. 2023 The law also says retailers can’t try and bully suppliers into giving those discounts. Alana Semuels, Time, 23 Aug. 2023
Some of us have been bullied about our bodies relentlessly. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, 28 Sep. 2023 Roberts, meanwhile, could be a bullying presence on set, Ross alleges, once going so far as to misgender her in front of a director. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Sep. 2023 The bullying continued at the start of his eighth grade year, and he was bullied and punched in the head on Thursday, September 12, leading him to seek help from a science teacher at the school, the lawsuit states. Eric Levenson, CNN, 14 Sep. 2023 The bill also proposed tracking demographic information on victims of bullying to determine whether students are being targeted for their race. James Ross Gardner, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2023 Even so, who better than Tina Fey to play a self-important, slightly bullying know-it-all who conceals her questionable competence behind a thin layer of condescension? Todd Gilchrist, Variety, 9 Sep. 2023 Dave Ring, an attorney for the Stolz family, said the family told the school that their nephew had been bullied and punched on several occasions, CBS Los Angeles reported. CBS News, 14 Sep. 2023 When the kids involved in bullying reached 10, they were asked to undergo a high-resolution structural MRI. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 5 Sep. 2023 Lauren Pazienza was notorious for bullying, it was later learned. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 5 Sep. 2023 See More

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 4 Oct. 2023.

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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